Take a Drink: for every flashback
Take a Drink: whenever Ralph Fiennes sings
Take a Drink: for every shot of Kristen Scott’s Thomases
Drink a Shot: for Ralph Fiennes being a dick, or creating his own problems for himself
By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Two Beers) –
In an abandoned Italian monastery at the end of World War II a military nurse (Juliette Binoche) cares for a dying burn victim (Ralph Fiennes). She cares for him and keeps him company, while waiting for the final moment to come. Initially claiming to have amnesia, he suddenly has flashes of his memory return, and begins telling her stories from his past, to explain what brought him to such a tragic end. The Nurse and the patient are soon joined by the mysterious self-proclaimed thief Caravaggio (Willem Dafoe), and Kip (Naveen Andrews), a Lieutenant in the British army assigned to the area to sweep for mines and explosives left behind by the retreating Nazis.
The nurse and Kip begin falling in love, and Caravaggio soon reveals a dark knowledge of the patient’s past.
A sprawling story of forbidden romance and star-crossed circumstances is combined with a very humanistic “reverence for life” message in this mid 90’s melodrama. The reliable cast also contains such fantastic players as Colin Firth, Kevin Whatley, and Jürgen Prochnow, whom are simply indefatigable in their efforts, bringing back nostalgic memories of golden-age romantic dramas such as Casablanca and An Affair to Remember. The English Patient won the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture, and I’m not surprised, because Hollywood royalty lives for these kind of performances.
The English Patient has attracted the ire of critics upon reappraisal in recent years, comparing it unfavorably to Fargo, which was also up for the best picture category that year. Admittedly, I cannot say that I disagree with this assessment. With that said, the bile which has been thrown at The English Patient is mostly undeserved, as it isn’t any more responsible for winning over Fargo than Forrest Gump is for beating out Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption. The sad truth is that truly innovative and unique movies are rarely honored with Best Picture; as is so often the case with elections, the party with the deepest pockets and best publicity campaign is usually the victor.
The film’s chief flaw is that it often feels a little to much akin to those movies of yesteryear. The dialogue and plot developments were perfectly suited to the times in which those classic films were made, but The English Patient also attempts to convey a level of realism which contrasts heavily with the film’s more romantic entanglements. It becomes distracting when character motivations seem to change rapid-fire between realistic portrayals and plot-driven necessity.
The English Patient is nearly 3 hours in length. Now, as I previously explained in my less than satisfied review of Gone with the Wind, I do not begrudge a movie its length, so long as it has something to say that necessitates that length *cough* Lawrence of Arabia *cough*. But this film doesn’t have any larger story to tell; it really is just about one dying man with a sad story. And that’s ok; but it isn’t “162 minutes ok”.
A solid old-Hollywood style melodrama that aspires to much more, and could have been with a little bit of honing.