Triumph of Love

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Reviews 1.5 / 5

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Starring: Mira Sorvino as The Princess, Ben Kingsley as Hermocrates

Triumph of Love Movie Review

The moral of love: Be manipulative and conniving to get the man (or woman) you want, even if a few other folks get their hopes crushed along the way. That's what's certain after watching Clare Peploe's depressing fairytale/restoration comedy Triumph of Love (based on a superficial Marivaux play originally performed in 1732). That's not the filmmaker's intention, though. She's clearly going for whimsy, light romance, and slapstick cuckolding. What her film lacks is a heart and a conscience.

Mira Sorvino plays a princess who dresses up as a dandified male student to infiltrate the summertime estate of a misogynistic philosopher (Ben Kingsley). Under the old man's tutelage, a dashing prince (Jay Rodan) has been instructed to distrust the female sex. So clever Sorvino attires herself as a man to earn his friendship, trust, and above all, love.

Along the way, she pretends to be wooing the philosopher's wan spinster sister (poor Fiona Shaw) and, in her most audacious move, reveals herself as a woman to Kingsley, but as a sultry temptress. In doing so, she dupes Kingsley and Shaw into falling head over heels for her. The end result, inevitably, is that they'll get hurt if and when she takes home her chosen man.

I can't remember the last time I saw a movie where I wanted so badly for the protagonist to fail. Sorvino's smug, self-involved performance is a study in egotism, bordering on Julia Roberts "I love my life" indulgence. If the man gives over to her, even a Ken doll like Rodan, it's to applaud deceitfulness, trickery, and selfishness. Shaw's character is a fool and a prude, but she doesn't deserve her heart trampled upon for the sake of Sorvino's boy toy infatuation. Oh, for a dose of morality in our cynical times (or any time! Even in 1732, this is loathsome.)

And that ham Ben Kingsley is quickly becoming the flashing red light to Stay Away from any movie he's in. Last year, it was the loathsome music video-stylized gangster film Sexy Beast. This year, it's his cartoon misanthrope. His feverishly mannered acting might work on the stage, but on film it's grotesque. Kingsley's scenery chewing distracts from the one thing Triumph of Love has going for it, namely the appealing gardens and verandas where Sorvino flaunts her perkiness. The nice locales make up for a lot, and are continually eye-catching -- but what I wouldn't give for some nice acting to accompany them.

I kept waiting for some character to tell Sorvino, "Go away from here and never return. I hope I never see you again. You should be ashamed of yourself, you terrible person." In the end, it's fair to say I almost got my wish. But before I thought Triumph of Love had actually played its cards close to the vest in condemnation of Sorvino's girl who knows nothing of the complexity of honest love, the point is negated by a pat Happily Ever After. If you always wanted to see a Nora Ephron (You've Got Mail) costume drama, this love bud's for you. My question: Don't we expect a little something more from writer/producer Bernardo Bertolucci?

Aka The Triumph of Love.

Cupid strikes, misses.


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Triumph of Love Rating

" Terrible "


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