The Painted Veil Reviews
The always surprising Watts creates a woman at once contemporary and retro. And Norton, as a producer as well as star, concedes enough space for Schreiber and the effortlessly fascinating Jones to earn their own spotlights.
Even amid an atmosphere of human rot, it's too elegant for its own good, a pleasing but pale Merchant-Ivory exercise that reverently strives for a kind of simple redemptive decency that Maugham found less triumphant than this movie does.
The filmmakers are mindful of the challenges inherent in filming Maugham's novel. But The Painted Veil never fully finesses the novel's 1920s attitudes toward its ethnic others.
[Director] Curran has crafted a film that accomplishes so much. It not only draws us into this personal drama between his two principal actors, but also sets it all against a vibrant background of an ancient civilization struggling to become modern.
Norton and Schreiber seem too American to be English colonials, but Watts navigates a challenging transformation (in a role first played by Greta Garbo in 1934), and there are sturdy performances by Anthony Wong, Toby Jones, and Diana Rigg.
All this comes from a novel by Somerset Maugham, although the movie leaves out most of the complexities of the book to focus on the single-minded venom of the marriage.
The Painted Veil tells a mesmerizing story while honoring all of the classic traditions of superior filmmaking -- a magnificent accomplishment that will haunt you long after it ends.