The Honest Courtesan Review

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Veronica (McCormack) is desperate to rise above her social station and gain an education. She also wishes to marry a handsome aristocrat, who will help her achieve her desires. However, she takes a rather more alternative route when her mother recommends she take on the family business and become a courtesan.


Four years since Braveheart showcased her as a talent to watch, McCormack proves herself in a leading role befitting her talent in this occasionally dynamic if uneven drama set in the decadent 16th century Venice. While director Herskovitz, best known for intimate dramas such as Jack The Bear and TV's Thirtysomething, shows flair in period evocation, he lacks the certainty of tone to bring the proceedings completely to life.

McCormack is Veronica, a fiery Venetian desperate to rise above the status that her gender and station permit. Veronica wants knowledge, but the fairer sex aren't allowed to gain an education. She also wishes to wed handsome aristocrat Marco (Sewell) but he admits that because he has no inheritance he is unable to marry her. So Veronica's mum (Bisset) tells her about an option that could save her from a life of drudgery - becoming a courtesan (a high-class hooker) as she did. That way she can have her man as a lover and seek an education at the same time, with courtesans encouraged to have a lot up top. Veronica consequently becomes the most celebrated courtesan in Venice. But not all men succumb to her charms - notably the poetic Maffio (Platt) who is jealous of her popularity.

Shot with a loving eye, the costumes and the locations are sumptuous and everything develops beautifully, if somewhat unbelievably. But then the final hour, instead of summing up, goes all theatrical and ridiculous and culminates in a farcical attempt to turn what was a despicable time in history, into a courtroom drama complete with monologues and quite crazy confessions.

Although based on a true story, it is hard to credit some of the film's motivations (would Veronica really have relished every man who paid for her services?). Bisset and McCormack make a great mother and daughter duo but the moral and the inappropriate oh-so happy ending leaves much to be desired.

Shot with a loving eye, the costumes and the locations are sumptuous and everything develops beautifully, if somewhat unbelievably, until the very end when everything spirals into coutroom melodrama.

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