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The Golden Bowl (2000)

La Coupe dor

Directed by:

James Ivory

Rating: 2/10

Running Time: 130 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 12


The painfully drab dialogue, the billowing dresses surrounding each and every female, the predictable conflict between various foreign nationals: it can only mean one thing. Yup, that’s right: yet another pile of steaming plopsy has dropped from the collective bumflaps of director James Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant, and writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. It might have been nigh-on 40 years since they first started inflicting their own particular brand of period dross upon us through their Merchant sodding Ivory production company, but if ‘The Golden Bowl’ is anything to go by, they show no signs of doing this reviewer a giant favour and stopping.

This one takes us back to 1903, where we find some nookying going on between the Italian Prince Amerigo (Jeremy Northam) and his American bit-on-the-side Charlotte (Uma Thurman). They can’t be together because he’s skint, and needs to marry into money quick-smart or it’ll be park bench time. So he weds Maggie Verver (Kate Beckinsale), the daughter of America’s first ever mumbling billionaire Adam (Nick Nolte) and, in what is by no means the only downright ridiculous coincidence of the tale, an old school chum of Charlotte’s. Oh yeah, and Charlotte – in case you’re interested – starts feeling a bit left out so decides to marry old Mumbles. Hope you’re getting all of this – and no nodding off at the back!

Anyway, as you’ll probably have guessed, Charlotte and Princeykins carry on with their secret snog sessions behind everyone else’s backs, and much heartache ensues. There’s also some extremely clumsy symbolism in the form of a cracked Golden Bowl popping up every now and then in the story. It looks a bit like one of the fake cups-of-Christ from ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ – just one of the many, many films that are infinitely better than this one.

Okay, so let’s try to be positive: ‘The Golden Bowl’ is proficiently made. It’s nice to look at. The girlies get to wear pretty dresses. Whoop-dee-arsing-doo. It’s without a single notable sub-plot, and in fact is about nothing more than a couple of people having an affair. I would say that makes it little more than a high budget soap opera, but even soap operas have plotlines with some marginal degree of depth, dialogue with the occasional bit of bite, and actors who don’t look bored out of their skulls. By the way, if those actors involved thought making this drabfest was dull, they should try sitting through it for 130 minutes.

It's Got: Anjelica Huston playing the fantastically-named Fanny Assingham.

It Needs: To be used as a coaster once you’ve finished watching it – because, mark my words, there’s not a chance in Hell you’ll actually use it as a DVD again.

DVD Extras Some trailers (look out for Helena Bonham-Carter’s terrifying eyebrows in the one for ‘A Room With a View’), a behind-the-scenes featurette, and some guff celebrating Merchant Ivory’s 30th anniversary DVD Extras Rating: 3/10


A Room With a View, stab yourself in the eye., The Europeans


Torture has a new name, and ‘The Golden Bowl’ is it.

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