Stealing Beauty Movie Review

Stealing Beauty is a bad movie. Bernardo Bertolucci, the Academy Award-winning director of 1987's The Last Emperor, is dead. He has been replaced with a hormonal and juvenile kid, masquerading as a filmmaker, desperately trying to appeal to a cerebral audience yet maintaining enough accessibility for the moviegoing public.

Stealing Beauty fails miserably on both counts.

The story is simple, after you put it together (Susan Minot's script hides the real plot for a good hour). Liv Tyler plays Lucy, a 19-year old virginal American who travels to Italy to lounge around with old family friends, talk about her dead poetess mother, and find her sexual awakening. Or, How To Make an American Quilt. Lucy moves in with about a dozen bizarre characters -- I have no idea who they are or why they are together except that some of them new her mother -- some are English, some American, some Italian -- they're just living in a big villa in Italy -- and Lucy basically makes herself at home. A lot of people have a lot of sex, and Lucy watches or listens to a lot of this, when she isn't posing half-naked for a statue being carved in her image. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, "Who are these people!?"

On screen, this set of situations is as ridiculous as it looks on paper. The movie makes little or no sense, being at its heart a far-too simplistic tale of a girl losing her virginity that is told in a far-too roundabout way so as to make even this fact almost lost upon the viewer.

The story is so simple, yet at the same time, Tyler's character is wholly unbelievable as a real person. Quite frankly, she is contradicted in her actions with every progressive scene. Whether this is Tyler's fault or the script is anyone's guess.

As for the titular Beauty, there ain't a whole lot of it around, unless you consider scenes of Lucy drooling, Lucy looking at a bidet, Lucy talking with her mouth full, Lucy singing off-key, and Lucy vomiting as "beautiful." Stealing beauty? You can have it! And you can keep Liv Tyler as an actress altogether as far as I'm concerned. (Am I the only one who had the misfortune of seeing Silent Fall?)

In fact, the only real beauty in the film is Bertolucci's ultra-stylish/ ultra-cutesy photography, which ultimately does little to enhance the story. (Note to the producers: please cut out the superimposition of Lucy's poetry on the screen while she looks wistfully into the camera.) And lest you think I'm too negative, the only decent character in the film is the terminally ill Alex (Jeremy Irons). I have no idea why he was in the movie, but his scenes were the only watchable ones, and he's the only likable character.

Bertolucci tries to win us over by showing a lot of naked people, but I certainly wasn't sucked in. In fact, I was just shocked at the amount of lechery and sluttiness that goes on that is essentially endorsed by the film.

My favorite line in the picture: "What am I doing here with these kids?" I couldn't have said it better myself.

Comments

Stealing Beauty Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: R, 1996

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