Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Empire's New Tom Cruise Cover
The Jameson Empire Awards 2014
Vote: The Greatest 301 Movies Of All Time!
Rebecca Hall:
My Movie Life

The actress picks the movies that shaped her
Mountain Dew Green Screen
Register Now to see X-MEN First Class!
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12
Cast
Nick Nolte
Greta Scacchi
Thandie Newton.
Directors
James Ivory.
Screenwriters
Running Time
135 minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
Looking For Light: Jane Brown
3 Star Empire Rating
Informant, The
2 Star Empire Rating
Exhibition
4 Star Empire Rating
Rebel Without A Cause
5 Star Empire Rating
Magic Magic
3 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Rebel Without A Cause
5 Star Empire Rating
Calvary
5 Star Empire Rating
Wake In Fright
5 Star Empire Rating
Stranger By The Lake
5 Star Empire Rating
Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?
5 Star Empire Rating

Jefferson In Paris
Pretty looking but not emotionally invested Merchant Ivory piece.


submit to reddit


Plot
Before he became president, Thomas Jefferson (Nolte) was ambassador to France for five years at the end of the 18th century. After the death of his first wife, he pledged never to love again, but in the course of working through his bereavement, grew steadily closer to his family, and especially one of his slaves, Sally Hemings (Newton).


Review
After a series of much-loved, cork-in-too-tight, very English efforts, culminating in the critical and commercial smash The Remains Of The Day, good old Merchant-Ivory (and writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala) have expanded their horizons out of adapting literary darlings and into original screenplay territory. It has not been entirely successful.

In the 1790s, Thomas Jefferson (Nolte) spent five years as US ambassador to Paris - five pretty amazing years to be there, no doubt, what with the Montgolfier brothers doing their ballooning thing, and the aristocracy lapping up the luxury as the peasants bay at the gate, keen to make the most of M. Guillotine's new invention. Jefferson has his own problems, too, what with Maria Cosway (Scacchi) causing mayhem with his promise to his deceased wife never to love another, his attraction to his 15-year-old slave girl (Newton) ending up being consummated in the sack (naturally off-camera), and his black man-slave James (Seth Gilliam) demanding wages, since slavery is frowned upon in France. These the movie, loosely, encompasses.

What the movie doesn't manage to do is to put flesh on Jefferson's bones for those who know simply that he was one of history's greatest figures. By casting the resolutely modern Nick Nolte and by attempting to "humanise" the man, the filmmakers have come terribly unstuck. To Americans, it looks like a deliberate debunking of the genius who co-wrote the Constitution To everyone else, it simply doesn't answer the big question: what made Jefferson special?

Of course it looks perfect, dripping with period detail, and with one of the greatest New World thinkers crashing into Europe as the old order disintegrates, the material is here for a fascinating tale. Add in the issues of sex, race and class, and you should really have a winner. But sadly, beyond the wigs, costumes and exquisite set design, its a vacant enterprise.


Verdict
Jefferson's sterile, glossed-over relationship with the teenage Sally sums the whole thing up: it should be (and surely was) based on nothing but animal lust. And that is not a commodity readily present in the pristine world of Merchant Ivory.


Reviewed by Philip Thomas

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Ten Things To Know About The Spooks Movie
Under the hood of The Greater Good

Who’s In Spider-Man’s Sinister Six?
A bluffer’s guide to the planned spin-off from the Amazing Spider-films

14 YouTube Videos Every Game Of Thrones Fan Should Have Watched By Now
From goats singing the theme tune to every death in under three minutes

Hollywood's Biggest Names On Their Favourite Films
Stars and directors like Nolan, Whedon, Wright and Ford on the films that inspire them

The Remake Report: Hollywood's Do-Overs Coming Our Way
The redoes, remakes, reboots, reworkings and reimaginings headed our way…

The Nebraska Playlist
Alexander Payne programmes a movie marathon for us

More Found Footage: Another 25 Trailers That Tease Missing Scenes
Further sequences that disappeared between promo and final cut

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get Limited Edition Collectable X-Men Art Cards

Subscribe today and get 6 issues of Empire plus a set of collectable X-Men Art Cards for only £20!

Subscribe today

Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Just £25
Receive limited edition subscribers-only covers every month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)