Oscar-winning actress stars in a dull period piece
Mira Sorvino is a very beautiful woman and a pretty good actress, but she has lousy taste in film roles.
She's taken a few impressive turns on the screen Ñ in 'Barcelona,' 'Romy and Michele's High School Reunion' and her Oscar-winning role in Woody Allen's 'Mighty Aphrodite.'
But poor Sorvino suffers from the best supporting actress curse. Her follow-up movies have been, for the most part, dreck such as 'Mimic,' 'The Replacement Killers' and that Val-Kilmer-as-blind-guy debacle, 'At First Sight.'
You have to give her credit for being a hard worker, though Ñ she's made, on average, four films a year since 1994. And the ineffable law of movies being what it is, odds are that the vast majority of her 35 films are going to be dogs anyway. After all, to paraphrase writer Theodore Sturgeon, 90 percent of movies are crap.
Which brings us to 'Triumph of Love,' a period comedy-of-manners so dumb, so ploddingly directed, that one wonders what producer Bernardo Bertolucci was thinking when he attached his name to it Ñ until one remembers that the film's director, Clare Peploe, is Bertolucci's wife.
An 18th-century comedy written by Pierre Marivaux, the original play 'shocked and delighted audiences,' according to the studio's media materials. But that was 300 years ago.
Today, Sorvino dressing up in pantaloons and pretending to be a man is neither shocking nor delightful, and the tired, overused plot gains nothing from the awkward updating it receives here.
The film starts promisingly enough, with a bewigged and corseted Sorvino and her maid (Rachael Stirling) giddily releasing each other from their elaborate costumes within the confines of a moving carriage. How Ñ dare I say it? Ñ shocking and delightful!
Unfortunately, that small amount of titillation leads only to the pair emerging dressed as men, then blathering a long stream of exposition, all of it boring. Something about a usurped throne and a dead father and a true heir named Agis (Jay Rodan) who was born in prison, then raised in exile by a philosopher, and who considers usurper-slash-princess Sorvino his mortal enemy.
Anyway, Sorvino falls head over heels on her first glimpse of a naked, dripping, post-swim Agis. Which is perhaps understandable because actor Rodan looks uncannily like what you'd get if you put River Phoenix's head on Brendan Fraser's body (and that's both as sexy and as disturbing as it sounds).
For no good reason whatsoever, Sorvino is soon wooing Agis and the philosopher (Ben Kingsley) and the philosopher's sister (Fiona Shaw) with the help of the comical household staff (Ignazio Oliva and Luis Moteni). Everything except the scenes with Kingsley is sluggishly paced and idiotic.
It's never clear where the film takes place, what with the British accents, French clothing and Italian countryside. Sorvino is adorable all dressed up as a boy, but she's never quite believable in drag, raising the question of why in the world everyone is falling for it.