Directed By: James Lapine
Written By: Sarah Kernochan
Produced By: Stuart Oken, Daniel A. Sherkow
Cast: Judy Davis, Hugh Grant, Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters, Emma Thompson, Julian Sands
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 108 minutes
Review Date: July 14, 2010
Impromptu feels like Pride & Prejudice with a little bit of sass and crass thrown in. We have Aurora (Judy Davis), a feminist writer who prefers to go by the male name George Sand and wear top hats and coats. Sand finds herself the object of many men’s affections, which is odd considering her enormous lion-mane of hair, wrinkled neck, and boyish appearance. We meet her ex, Alfred de Musset (Mandy Patinkin), and the object of her affection, Frederic Chopin (Hugh Grant). Sand meets Chopin after Duchess D’Antan (Emma Thompson) invites all of the art geniuses (Chopin and Sand included) to a weekend at her estate.
To complicate matters — because when does life ever go perfectly on an estate when you’re just wasting away the days by reading and soaking in the sun? — Marie D’Agoult (Bernadette Peters) finds herself falling in love with Chopin, as well. D’Agoult hijacks a letter from Sand to Chopin, leading Chopin to believe Sand does not fancy him. This doesn’t bode well for the weekend festivities, and we witness a duel before all of the guests go their separate ways.
Once everyone leaves the countryside estate, Sand publishes another book that just happens to contain excerpts from her original letter to Chopin. When Chopin picks up the book and discovers this, he confronts D’Agoult on the real author of the letter. And alas, another duel occurs.
Impromptu makes it hard to believe a real attraction between Sand and Chopin (mainly because Sand looks like she could be Chopin’s mother). The real “genius” of the film is Duchess D’Antan, played superbly by Thompson. She’s hilarious, naïve, and all too pleasing. Watching her give the geniuses a tour of her home is quite hilarious, seeing as none of them really have any type of interest in this affair, and also, none of them had met her prior to this visit. I greatly enjoyed her presence in the film and felt a little hurt when the geniuses write a play mocking her. D’Antan’s presence definitely keeps this film afloat.
The film boasts an incredible cast, but it lacks a script worthy of their talents. Most of the time, I sat in confusion, wondering how much time could have passed when literally nothing happened. The only real positive was the beautiful cinematography, showing off the lush French countryside, and the exquisite costume design. Should high-definition have existed when they filmed this movie, I would anticipate many intricate details in the fabric, such as those from the more recent Young Victoria. But a great-looking film doesn’t make a film great, which makes Impromptu doubly disappointing.
Hanna Soltys is a green tea drinker and film critic living in Chicago.