THE GOLDEN BOWL (James Ivory) is the oh-so-tasteful Merchant-Ivory adaptation of Henry James's novel about poor American expatriate Charlotte (Uma Thurman), who has a clandestine affair with an Italian prince (Jeremy Northam). The prince marries Charlotte's best friend, Maggie (Kate Beckinsale), and then Charlotte weds Maggie's billionaire father (Nick Nolte). Father and daughter suspect their spouses are cheating with one another.
Since this is James, no one ever comes out and simply asks; everyone talks around the issue with polite platitudes about loyalty and fidelity. Thurman gives an overly arch performance -- sometimes she acts like a silent film star playing to the balcony -- that upsets the film's otherwise subdued mood. The settings are marvellous -- a huge, half-empty English estate and a crumbling Italian palazzo are especially stunning -- but when the buildings grab your attention instead of the drama, you know you're in for a long haul. 127 minutes. NN