MISADVENTURES OF MARGARET, THE
(director/writer: Brian Skeet; screenwriter: based on the novel by Cathleen Schine “Rameau’s Niece”; cinematographer: Romain Winding; editor: Clare Douglas; cast: Parker Posey (Margaret Nathan), Jeremy Northam (Edward Nathan), Craig Chester (Richard Lane), Elizabeth McGovern (Till Turner), Corbin Bernsen (Art Turner), Brooke Shields (Lily), Patrick Bruel (Martin), Alexis Denisof (Dr. Lipi), Amy Phillips (Sarah); Runtime: 105; TF1; 1998-UK/France)
“So pathetically woeful, that even Parker’s slightly amusing neurotic and ditsy shtick wears thin and fails to save the film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Indie superstar Parker Posey (“Party Girl”) stars in a whimsical and incoherent romantic-comedy based on the romantic novel “Rameau’s Niece” by Cathleen Schine. The Misadventures of Margaret is so pathetically woeful, that even Parker’s slightly amusing neurotic and ditsy shtick wears thin and fails to save the film. Brian Skeet’s debut feature leaves a lot to be desired.
Columbia graduate student Margaret (Parker Posey) vacations in Paris hoping to be deflowered by a Frenchman, but instead mistakenly sleeps with British literature professor Edward Nathan (Jeremy Northam). He uses quotes from the literary greats as romantic bedroom lines. We next see the married couple seven years later living in Manhattan, with Margaret as neurotic as ever even though she’s a rich and famous best selling author of a sex novel. Edward is a sensitive, mild-mannered and dullish literature professor at one of the local colleges, who does his best to keep step with his more mercurial wife. Margaret is antsy over married life and lives a more exciting life through her imagination, where she’s working on a 18th-century steamy literary diary. This gives her the opportunity to go to France again for research, only to discover that the chateau at which the diary was written is now a nunnery hosting singing sisters. There she meets Martin (Patrick Bruel), who’s a French music producer making a CD with the nuns.
Returning to Manhattan, Margaret openly chats in a superficial way about the meaning of love with her pretentious circle of academic friends. They include married playwright Till Turner (Elizabeth McGovern) and Till’s trendy professor lesbian lover Lili (Brooke Shields). In a particularly clumsy and unfunny scene, Margaret jumps atop of Lili while unsuccessfully searching for her Sapphic side. Martin also pops up in Manhattan and shows an interest in Margaret, while Sarah (Amy Phillips), an attractive student in Edward’s class, tries to seduce him.
It tries to go the sophisticated urbane screwball comedy route, but all the female characters are as unaffecting as the fickle heroine (who looks a lot like Katharine Hepburn and gives off the same kind of class, but can’t come up with the same kind of a likable performance). Also, the adultery travails of the married couple disappoint in the areas of both comedy and drama. The film never achieves the effortless grace such comic antics merit, and the bawdy tongue-in-cheek dialogue gets stuck spinning its wheels with too much ditsy humor without exuding the charm hoped for.
REVIEWED ON 5/28/2005 GRADE: C https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/