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maryann johanson | #BlackLivesMatter

The Painted Veil (review)

The most electrifiying moments onscreen in this sturdy, stolid historical melodrama occur between real-life offscreen couple Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber, onscreen as a pair of illicit English ex-pat lovers in 1920s China. They’re barely together, however, as it is their characters’ affair that launches the plot, prompting her bitter, jealous husband, a doctor (Edward Norton), to set off for a remote village in the grips of a cholera epidemic, and to blackmail his wife into accompanying him. Off they go, across beautiful landscapes as they wallow in their own estrangement and in the elegant repression of W. Somerset Maugham (the film is based on his novel of the same name), and discover each other for the first time while the little world they land in falls apart around them. Watts (King Kong) and Norton (The Illusionist) are extraordinary actors, and in fine form here, but they never click together, and so the passion they’re meant to be awakening in each other fails to ignite, no matter how much the film insists it does. We find ourselves wishing that Liev (The Omen) would swoop in, kick Edward’s ass, and spirit Naomi away back to Shanghai for some genuine down-and-dirty romance.

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MPAA: rated PG-13 for some mature sexual situations, partial nudity, disturbing images and brief drug content

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