THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
The trouble comes with DiCaprio's acting. These "evil twin"
stories are always challenging for the person playing the twins, crafting
two different characters for the price of one, especially when one twin
has to pretend to be the other. Not only does DiCaprio have to give us 1)
King Louis and 2) Philippe, but he also must pull off 3) Philippe's characterization
of King Louis. Keeping in mind that Philippe is by no means a professional
actor, DiCaprio must show us the flaws in his impersonation of his brother,
but they must be so subtle that other characters in the movie believe he
is the king. Very tricky.
DiCaprio's characterizations, especially of the king, leave a little
to be desired. It is obvious that he was told by director Wallace to play
Louis as a spoiled brat, but he overdoes it. A teenage king like Louis might
be petty and conceited, but he would have been trained to have some sort
of regal bearing; he would not look like a 20th century American teenager.
DiCaprio reads his lines as if there is absolutely nothing behind them;
he fails to show thought before speaking. In life, conversation is not written
and memorized, it is constantly ebbing and flowing, evolving, in a state
of flux. DiCaprio is too rushed, too stilted at the beginning. But as the
story swells toward the climax, he allows both his characters to live, and
to be different, and to be the same.
The characterizations of the now-retired Musketeers are all impeccable,
as may be expected by the cast. The vengeful Athos (Malkovich), spiritual
Aramis (Irons), lustful and fun-loving Porthos (Depardieu), and D'Artagnan
(Gabriel Byrne), the one who remains loyal to the king, all give a satisfyingly
well-rounded feel to the story. We see it from all sides, and we see the
love and mutual respect between these old friends, who sometimes quarrel
so angrily that we expect them to draw swords against each other, and indeed
they do. It's all part of their comfortable yet intensely competetive relationship.
What a fine foursome.
No less praise should go to the two principal women. Anne Parillaud,
who plays Queen Anne, mother of the twins, is at once regal yet powerless,
sensual yet wracked with grief. Judith Godrèche, playing the lover
of Athos's son Raoul (Peter Sarsgaard), must deal with the affections of
the king who sent her fiancé away to his death on the battlefield.
The Man In The Iron Mask is a luxurious piece of eye candy all the way through; the costumes (by James Acheson), cinematography (by Peter Suschitzky), music (by Nick Glennie-Smith), and production design (by Anthony Pratt) all match Wallace's top-quality screenplay adaptation of Dumas's story. At this time of year, it's tempting to say that there will be several nominations headed in The Man's direction, but because of the timing of its release date, chances are this movie will be a distant memory by Oscar-time next year. ****½
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