Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman Revealed
The Inside Story Of Sideshow Collectibles
Guardians Of The Galaxy Review
Nick Frost:
My Movie Life

The World's End star's pick of the flicks
Subscribe: 6 Issues For £15!
Subscribe today and save 37% off the cover price!
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
All This Mayhem
3 Star Empire Rating
Guardians Of The Galaxy
4 Star Empire Rating
A Promise
1 Star Empire Rating
A Night At The Cinema In 1914
4 Star Empire Rating
Hide Your Smiling Faces
4 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Two Days, One Night
5 Star Empire Rating
Some Like It Hot
5 Star Empire Rating
A Hard Day's Night
5 Star Empire Rating
Boyhood
5 Star Empire Rating
Rebel Without A Cause
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.

SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Empire's The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies Covers Are Here
Bard The Bowman or Smaug The Magnificent?

A Pocket Guide To Game Of Thrones’ New Cast Members
Know your Doran Martell from your Nym Sand

Directors Special: Peter Hyams Goes Film-By-Film
The veteran director on Timecop, Outland, 2010, Enemies Closer and more

Explore The Massive Avengers: Age Of Ultron Comic-Con Banner
Use our interactive gadget to zoom in on Hulk, Iron Man, The Vision and co. in action

The 10 Biggest Stories Of Comic-Con 2014
The shocks to emerge from this year's geek-fest. Avengers! Max! Mann!

Models Inc.: The Inside Story Of Sideshow Collectibles
How the likes of Batman, Superman and Luke Skywalker become collectible figures

The Empire Podcast #121: Brett Ratner Talks Hercules On This Week's Show
Plus The Purge: Anarchy producer Jason Blum pops in to talk horror

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time Subscribers' Cover

Subscribe today and get the cover and 3 issues for only £10!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! 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)