Oscar Blindspots: Enchanted April/Damage

It might be 30 years late, but I’ll be catching up on all the Oscar nominees and winners I have missed from the year 1992 through the month of September

Miranda Richardson had a banner year. Not only was she prominently featured in Best Picture nominee The Crying Game, she received her first Oscar nomination. While these two films vary wildly in quality, her performances stay strong…no matter the genre.


Enchanted April
Directed by Mike Newell

Lottie Wilkins (Josie Lawrence) and Rose Arbuthnot (Richardson) see an advertisement for a furnished castle on the Mediterranean shores of Italy. Seeking an escape from their unhappy marriages, the pair recruit elegant and prudish widow Mrs. Fisher (Oscar nominee Joan Plowright) and the beautiful and carefree Lady Caroline (Polly Walker). The four abscond to Italy to come together and rejuvenate their lives and loves.

The four ladies are all spectacular in their own unique ways. Lottie is nothing but sunny optimism, while Rose is more of a cynic with a good heart. Mrs. Fisher wants order but longs for companionship. Lady Caroline wants to be left alone, but begins to second-guess her lack of attention. Each one is complex and interesting. No side quest to any of the women is less interesting. For a film where nothing much narratively happens, lots is happening.

Richardson is all grace and hidden sadness, while Lawrence is naïve sweetness. Plowright seems like the most straightforward, but adds surprising depth to her aging steadfastness. Walker is the true revelation as the likeable socialite who just needed a bit of time away to realize what she wants. Alfred Molina and Jim Broadbent add slight, but memorable supporting roles as the husbands who didn’t realize they loved their wives.

Though it doesn’t set try to reinvent the wheel, the film is a good time to be had for those who are looking for something calm, sweet, and nice.


Damage
Directed by Louis Malle

Dr. Stephen Fleming (Jeremy Irons) is a London minister living a happy life with his wife Ingrid (Richardson, in an Oscar-nominated role). At a reception, Stephen meets Anna (Juliette Binoche) and are instantly attracted to each other. Some time later, the Fleming’s son Martyn (Rupert Graves) brings his new girlfriend to meet his parents, revealed to be Anna. Stephen and Anna begin a torrid affair which consumes their lives and threatens everything Stephen has built.

Irons and Binoche can be such dynamic performers, but they give nothing here. The attraction between the two is apparent, but there is a visible lack of chemistry. Even the sex scenes, which are supposed to be erotically charged, end up feeling alien and perverse. The pair both bare it all on screen, but it does nothing to make it any sexier. The attraction is forced and never feels organic.

Richardson has some of the most memorable scenes near the film’s conclusion. After the affair goes public, her blunt honesty and surgical precision with words do more damage than any actual consequence ever could. Leslie Caron has a few great scenes as Anna’s mother, but her performance livens a film that doesn’t deserve her talents.

Strange, unsexy, and hard to pin down, the film is more notable for its bizarre sex scenes than for anything having to do with quality. There is an interesting film in here somewhere, but it isn’t with these filmmakers.


Next week: 1992 concludes with star vehicles for a classic comedian and a French legend with Mr. Saturday Night and Indochine

All 1992 Oscar Blindspots
Problematic Film History: The Crying Game

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