Instead of 19th Century England, Ivory sets this flick in modern day Uruguay. Jules Gund was monumentally famous for writing one giant hit of a book and for being an eccentric loner who lived with his family on an estate called Ocho Rios in Uruguay. Gund recently offed himself and, for whatever reason, the unique remnants of the family (a brother (Anthony Hopkins), his partner (Hiroyuki Sanada), Gund’s wife, mistress and lovechild) continue to live isolated on this gorgeous estate. A 20-something grad student in Colorado named Omar has decided his doctoral thesis will be a biography of Jules Gund, but when he sent a request for authorization to the family, they denied him. He decides this is his chance at something big, so he packs up and surprises the family at Ocho Rios. What Omar finds is an incredibly well educated, well bred group of eccentrics living on a breathtaking compound who don’t exactly mingle with the masses all that often. He also finds, of course, a much more interesting story than he’d first imagined.
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It was very well executed and the pacing truly made it feel as though I was simply there in Uruguay visiting this family and witnessing the oddity and wonder of it all. What I mean to say is that it all felt very natural and unpretentious. Ivory created an tone that said, “sit back, relax with a cool drink and soak in the drama of this family.” The only complaint I have is in the casting of the two female leads. Mind you, both did a great job in their portrayals, but their ages were all wrong for the roles and, as a result, they could not feel as natural and genuine in their character’s skins as the rest of the cast. First, you have 46-year-old Laura Linney playing the upright, formal matriarch of the family who is supposed to be in her early sixties. Linney acted 60 but didn’t look it one bit. Then, the character of Arden, the 28-year-old mistress, was portrayed by 40-year-old Charlotte Gainsbourg. While Gainsbourg did a great job of exhuding the right nervous, fidgety energy for the role, it just doesn’t work when someone who is forty and looks forty is playing a twenty-something. Outside of this mild complaint, I liked everything about this movie. It’s visually gorgeous, lazily paced, very well written and acted and went down like a cold Manhattan on a sun soaked veranda.