Vatel Movie Review

If you've ever heard of Vatel, it's probably only because you remember it was nominated for a Best Art Direction Oscar in 2000. And indeed, this is a lovely film to watch, even on the small screen. What I hadn't counted on was that Vatel would contain a good story with very capable acting, genuinely intriguing -- and based on a historical event, to boot.

Vatel is the central character in a critical weekend in French history (way back in 1671). Played by Gérard Depardieu, Vatel is the chief steward at the mansion of the Prince de Condé, a now penniless French nobleman whose last-ditch effort is to invite King Louis XIV to his estate for the weekend, through a rager of a party, and win the king's favor in order to get the post as general in the upcoming war against the Dutch.

Vatel indeed goes all-out, with decadence befitting a dozen kings -- fireworks, feasts, music, and more. The only obstacle in the event turns out to be Vatel himself.: He's fallen in love with a member of the court (Uma Thurman), who is not only being chased by a Marquis (Tim Roth), but is the subject of the king's eye as well. Vatel's job duties and his station inevitably get in the way, creating a quite compelling drama.

The story lacks complexity, but Depardieu's performance is persuasive and of course the costumes and sets are incredible. Unfortunately, there are too many anachronisms in the film -- did they have iridescent ribbon in 1671? -- and director Roland Joffé explains that he's not overly interested in historical accuracy in the 3-minute documentary included on the DVD, the disc's sole extra.

Both of which are unfortunate.

Comments

Vatel Rating

" Good "

Rating: PG-13, 2000

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