The standard strike against Merchant-Ivory productions is as formulaic now as the movies themselves, but it happens to be true of their final collaboration, so what can you do. “Go out and get me the finest History you can find!” command Messrs. Merchant and Ivory of their liveried henchmen. “It will go great with this tragic tale of romance and restraint.”
Presto: Ralph Fiennes and Natasha Richardson are a blind American diplomat and a Russian exile-turned-escort in Shanghai on the eve of World War II. He builds a nightclub, a long-imagined ideal of refinement and mover-shakerdom that actually sounds a bit like a bar version of the M&I approach. she works there, escaping her ungrateful ex-noble family. speeches, costumed silences, explosions, redgraves — the pompous self-absorption self-destructs early with a zoom on Fiennes sensuously pantomiming a jockey at a betting racetrack. In short: something your parents’ friends recommended.
Opens December 21