2018/01/07

Middling: Kate & Leopold

Kate & Leopold (2001)
Directed by James Mangold
Written by Steven Rogers, James Mangold
Produced by Cathy Konrad, Christopher Goode, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Kerry Orent, Meryl Poster
Starring Meg Ryan, Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Breckin Meyer, Bradley Whitford, Natasha Lyonne
Which is a less likely premise: that an expatriated English patrician (Jackman) residing in NYC during the nineteenth century might be displaced at the commencement of the twenty-first, or that he'd find true love with an ambitious market analyst (Ryan) whilst then? The success of this cute comedy might hinge entirely on suspension of disbelief were it geared for audiences more demanding than American women of middle age and class, whose identification with Ryan sufficed. Jackman's considerable charm and outstanding oratory as the aristocratic anachronism carry the entire picture admirably; his equestrian facility, plausible politesse and dulcet delivery of Rogers' palatable period parlance can't be faulted. Furthermore, a chemistry with Ryan's mostly to his credit; otherwise, she's insipidly iterating the same persona she'd belabored through the '90s, never so unappealing as when portraying a jaded, pragmatic careerist. Schreiber's notably less pesky than usual as her former boyfriend, an ungainly scientist whose discovery of periodic temporal portals capacitates an excursion into the 1870s, where his surveillance of the titled Renaissance man redounds to the latter's adventure. Mangold drizzled less syrup into this script than the surfeit dripping from his previous Girl, Interrupted, and with Rogers minimized the cliches common to Victorian figures out of time: never uncharacteristically purblind, their protagonist acclimates readily after a few mishaps to current conventions and technology while retaining his mannerly rectitude. His contempt for contemporary vice is pleasurably registered when balking at the consumption of putrid margarine advertised in commercials for which he's an optimally suave spokesman, or exposing the sciolism and lechery of Ryan's ignoble superior (Whitford). Paradoxically, Ryan's as conspicuously miscast as commercially indispensable; Jackman's chevalier might be credibly enamored with a lady of her post had she any grace, allurement or a haircut less hideous, but her modest attraction was insufficient even before depleted during a succession of anteceding romantic comedies. Despite her inadequacy, Rolfe Kent's mushy music, and the infernal idiocies of her clownish brother (Meyer) for whom the gallant serves as counselor and urbane straight man, a refreshing gentility and virtue demonstrated in his proprieties and prodigality ennobles slightly a hit that confirmed ladies are still partial to (largely bygone) Anglo-Saxon character...when handsomely incarnate for a couple of hours.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Time After Time.

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