Cannes Review: The Princess of Montpensier (La Princesse de Montpensier )

There are a few differences worth noting between Beverly Hills 90210 and The Princess of Montpensier. First off, instead of taking place at Beverly Hills High and revolving around the lives of Donna, Brenda, Brandon, and Kelly, The Princess of Montpensier is set in France, in 1562, during the French Wars of Religion (Catholics vs. Huguenots). Other than those topical differences the storylines are shockingly similar, both ending up as melodramatic nightmares. Person A loves person B, person C's love for person A is unrequited, person D makes a ton of bad choices and probably needs to go to some therapy. Over and over, for two hours, a never-ending sea of hurt feelings and longing glances. The characters aren't explored. The entire film feels ruthlessly typical. There are plot contrivances galore. I didn't love it.

Melani Thierry plays Marie, the object of desire for four fellas. Her husband likes her. Her former boyfriend still digs her. And two mystery men (don't worry, I won't spoil it for you) also think she's simply perfection. Undoubtedly, she's quite fetching, and as an actor she does as well as she can with the role. The problem with the entire story is the stifling focus on winning Marie's affections. It becomes repetitive, feels pointless, and adds up to nothing. It's a love quadrilateral that turns the plot into a mushy vanilla pudding.

Historical pieces have a few advantages over their contemporary brethren. For instance, you can easily manipulate communication between protagonists (all correspondence took weeks), and weaving political and religious intrigue together feels more fluid. The Princess of Montpensier has a nice foundation due to these dispensations, but since nothing is rooted in strong character development the execution comes off as far more soap opera than effective period drama.

Still, some credit is due for the lushness of the scenery, for young Melanie Thierry, for mounting a film of this magnitude based on nothing more than a wish and a hope for a script. If you're the sort who enjoys films like The Four Feathers or earnestly sings along with "Hey, Jealously" in your car, then this just might be for you. Everyone else should grab a glass of red wine and throw on a little Melrose Place.

Grade: D