Le Divorce

Le Divorce is a 2003 Merchant Ivory Productions film directed by James Ivory from a screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and Ivory, based on Diane Johnson's best-selling novel.


    American Isabel Walker (Kate Hudson) travels to Paris to visit her pregnant sister Roxy (Naomi Watts). Roxy's husband Charles-Henri leaves Roxy for his married Russian lover, Magda Tellman, and her unhinged husband stalks and harasses Roxy. While Isabel begins two simultaneous affairs with French men from different social classes, Roxy's and Charles-Henri's families fight over French community property laws and ownership rights of a family-owned masterpiece. Glenn Close plays Olivia Pace, an American author who had an affair with one of Isabel's lovers.


    Isabel (Hudson) Walker travels to Paris to visit her sister, poet Roxy (Watts), who lives with her husband, Frenchman Charles-Henri, and her young daughter, Gennie. Roxy is pregnant, but her husband has just walked out on her without explanation. Isabel discovers that he has a married Russian lover, Magda Tellman, whom he intends to marry after securing a divorce from Roxy. Roxy refuses to divorce him.

    Paris-based American author Olivia Pace (Glenn Close), a friend of Roxy's, offers Isabel a job. The sisters visit the Charles-Henri's family's country home for Sunday brunch, where Isabel meets Charles-Henri's mother (Leslie Caron), and her handsome middle-aged brother-in-law, Edgar.

    Isabel also meets Yves, Olivia's protégé, and they begin an affair. At the same time, she is attracted to the older, wealthy and married Edgar. The two begin an affair, although Isabel continues to string Yves along.

    Charles-Henri maintains a blasé attitude about his infidelity and insists on a divorce. He also hopes to benefit from the French community property laws in the divorce, especially with regard to a painting owned by his wife's family. His mistress, Magda Tellman, is married to a man who begins to stalk and harass Roxy, thinking her responsible for his wife's desertion. Charles-Henri's cruelty and insensitivity take their toll on Roxy, and she attempts suicide in late pregnancy. She survives and is supported by Isabel and her lawyer.

    Roxy and Isabel's parents arrive from the US, which further complicates things when Edgar 's wife, Amelie, discovers the affair through Edgar's sister and Roxy's mother-in-law. She and Charles-Henri's mother confront, not Isabel, but her mother.

    Magda childishly teases her husband with her new relationship, and Charles-Henri is later found dead, murdered by Magda's husband in a crime of passion. Tellman then follows the sisters on a family outing to the Eiffel Tower, where he corners them and pulls a gun, demanding an opportunity to explain to an absent Roxy why he killed her husband. After some persuasion, the distraught Tellman releases the gun to Isabel, who drops it into a Hermes bag, an expensive gift from Edgar, before throwing it off the Eiffel Tower.

    Edgar, persuaded by his socially conscious family's concern and tiring of his young lover, casually ends his affair with Isabel with a [Hermes] scarf and a lunch.

    After Roxy's baby is born, she marries her lawyer. Isabel begins a real relationship with Yves. The disputed family painting of Saint Ursula by Georges de la Tour, rejected by the Louvre as worthless, sells for 4.5 million Euros, and because its ownership is no longer disputed on Charles-Henri's death, the money goes to the Walker family.



    Le Divorce was filmed in Paris at locations including Café de Flore, Tour Eiffel, Musée du Louvre and Salle Gaveau. The Eiffel Tower's elevators, stairways and various levels are seen extensively as one character pursues another near the end of the film.


    Opening title music was Paul Misraki's "Qu'est-ce qu'on attend pour être heureux", sung by Patrick Bruel and Johnny Hallyday from Bruel's CD "Entre deux". End title music was Serge Gainsbourg's "L'Anamour", sung by Jane Birkin from her CD "Version Jane".



    Le Divorce was given an initial limited release on August 8, 2003 in 34 theaters where it grossed $516,834 on its opening weekend. It went into wide release on August 29, 2003 in 701 theaters where it grossed $1.5M on its opening weekend. The film went on to make $9 million in North America and $3.9M in the rest of the world for a worldwide total of $12.9M.

    Critical response

    Le Divorce received largely mixed to negative reviews. It has a 38% rating on a Rotten Tomatoes and a 51 metascore on Metacritic. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and felt that it did not "work on its intended level, because we don't care enough about the interactions of the enormous cast. But it works in another way, as a sophisticated and knowledgeable portrait of values in collision". In his review for the New York Times, A.O. Scott wrote, "As it is, Le Divorce is tasteful, but almost entirely without flavor. It is tough work to sit through a comedy made by filmmakers with so little sense of timing and no evident sense of humor".Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "C" rating and Owen Gleiberman wrote, "I'm disappointed to report that Hudson and Watts have no chemistry as sisters, perhaps because Watts never seems like the expatriate artiste she's supposed to be playing". In his review for the Village Voice, David Ng wrote, "Indeed, featuring a boatload of intercontinental stars who have little to do, Le Divorce uncannily embodies its privileged bilingual milieu. At worst, it suggests a documentary of its own lavish wrap party".Premiere magazine's Glenn Kenny gave the film three out of four stars and wrote, "the picture is a nice return to form for Ivory and company, as well as a welcome stretch for Kate Hudson, whose luminous talents, I fear, are going to be hidden under bushels of stupid Hollywood romantic comedies for the foreseeable future". In his review for The New York Observer, Andrew Sarris wrote, "The film's greatest achievement, however, is in keeping a dizzying variety of characters at odds with each other without any breach of good manners, and without descending to facile stereotypes and caricatures".

    See also

    • Cinema of the United States


    External links