When you see a lousy movie, it's usually fun to be able to mock it afterwards. This way, you at least get a little satisfaction from the otherwise complete waste of time and money.
Feast of July is a lousy movie, but it allows no such opportunity. From the first frame to the end, this film is nothing but sheer boredom, an Art Movie that wants to be oh-so-classy and ends up not even approaching a "feast," but rather becoming more fodder for the cinematic gristmill.
The story is a simple plot of a brooding "mystery woman," Bella (Embeth Davidtz), trying to track down her ex-lover in 1880s England. Along the way about 3 other guys fall for her, most notably a guy named Con (Ben Chaplin), who convinces Bella to marry him. Again, the story is very simple, but the film is so convoluted as to make this plotline indiscernible for the first 40 minutes, most of which is consumed with odd discussions of shoes and hats, bad dancing, and Bella falling down a lot.
There is so much wrong with Feast of July that I don't know where to begin. The acting is atrocious, especially Davidtz (who previously shone so brightly in Schindler's List), here doing nothing but wandering around in a daze. The direction is also bad (this is Christopher Menaul's first feature), as is the editing. Worst of all is the screenplay by Christopher Neame, which merits marks only when a few of the many obnoxious characters are killed off. The film does start to get a tad interesting in its final reel, but it is way to little, far too late.
This movie is billed as "a Merchant Ivory Production," but don't be misled. Ismail Merchant executive produced (read: did nothing) on this picture, and Ivory is nowhere to be found. (The Merchant Ivory company produced the picture, not the filmmakers.) Their flair is difficult to copy, and Feast of July proves it.
In a nutshell, Feast of July is an extraordinarily difficult to follow film, full of talky, dull melodrama and the glamorization of "proper" 19th century sensibilities. Puh-leeze. The press notes call this film "unforgettable." I'm glad they reminded me.