The Tourist

Posted on March 22, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Behind this forgettable trifle are some very talented people, all punching below their weight when they’re not just calling it in. The screenplay is by Julian Fellowes (“Gosford Park”), Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”), and director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (“The Lives of Others”), based on the 2005 French film, “Anthony Zimmer.” Two of the biggest stars on the planet, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp do their best to put some sizzle in this would-be romantic thriller, but they are both poorly used and have no chemistry whatsoever. Venice is pretty, though.

Jolie is the veddy proper Elise Clifton-Ward, whose role in this film is somewhere between femme fatale (drawing the poor schlub who happens across her path into a world of intrigue and peril) and Girl from Ipanema — she spends a lot of time walking slowly while those she passes say, “Ahhhhhhh.”

Elise receives a note from Alexander Pearce, the man she loves and has not seen for two years, asking her to find a man on the train who resembles him to use as a decoy and distract the various Interpol teams that are trying to track him down. Enter the shlub, a math teacher from Wisconsin so (apparently) incapable of dishonesty that his very name is Frank. And yet, we see him tell a lie very early on. It’s a small one, perhaps understandable, but still….

Elise invites him to spend the night in her lavish hotel suite (on the sofa) and kisses him on the balcony, thus drawing the fire, and the attention, of Interpol and of someone even more bent on tracking Pearce down, the man he stole from. It’s a nice set-up, but the execution depends on three things that never happen: a witty script, a spark between the leading characters, and an understanding of tone. The script sags. Jolie and Depp are both poorly cast (she may be more of a serene and elegant mother earth in her real life these days but on screen she only comes alive when she is aggressive and a little wicked and Depp can do just about anything but act like an ordinary guy). And von Donnersmarck has no sense of humor or lightness to make the sillier aspects of the story endearing instead of annoying. This is yet another example of an American remake of a French film that just misses the fun, the romance, and the point.

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Action/Adventure Romance Thriller

6 Replies to “The Tourist”

  1. Nell,
    Once again…well said!
    This one dropped the ball in a number of categories and I felt that Depp and Jolie were definitely not used well.
    It’s strange though. Out of the number of reviewers I follow each week (of course, this includes you!), I seem to be the only one in that group that actually liked the chemistry between these too. Several fellow reviewers said the same thing you did: no chemistry. Me, I liked Depp’s ‘regular, quirky shy guy’ that gets drawn in by the temptress. It was a ‘we can’t quite be together’ magnetic polar opposites type of chemistry and I liked it.
    But, a few good performances and some gorgeous scenery were not enough to save this one!

  2. While there is nothing in this film that you’d be afraid to take a middle schooler to see, it simply isn’t worth bothering with. The characters are insipid and the plot is transparent. If you haven’t figured it out halfway through, then you haven’t paid attention.
    This is primarily a movie about Angelina Jolie playing to the camera. Trust me, by the time you leave the theater you will be sick of puffy-lipped closeups of Jolie in Minnie Mouse eyelashes, glam outfit after glam outfit, full-face shots, profile shots, rear shots, etc., etc. What on earth was Depp thinking when he agreed to make this stinker? On the plus side, the popcorn was good.

  3. Nell, great review…I would have seen the movie despite the sad reviews it received because I love Johnny Depp, and I can usually find something to like about Angelina’s performances. But I agree that the scenery was beautiful…and I loved the very last line in the movie that she said to him. That pretty much summed up their chemistry, which was zero. I kinda felt bad for Johnny through the whole thing…I thought it was an utter waste of his talent and he looked like he couldn’t wait to go home. Both actors were miscast, IMHO.
    Thanks for another great review from you!

  4. Nell, this is not a great movie. That much is true. I agree with much of what you say.
    However, I think you neglected to mention some real “teaching moments” of the film. Let’s put it this way: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Venice, Paris, evening dresses, no sex, little violence…what’s the likelihood I’m not going to take my teen-aged daughter to see this movie? Might as well make it worthwhile.
    First, as you mention, Jolie slowly walks through the movie and everyone around her says “Ahhhh.” (I laughed when I read that.) And honestly, many American women (and girls) wish that that could be them; conversation-haltingly beautiful, great clothes, jewels. All this attention on how someone looks, in the context of this movie, is very interesting however. The movie’s unsubtle motif is that of Janus; and his two faces.
    Early on we learn that Alexander Pearce, whose real face is only known to a few, has had face reconstruction surgery. He is a man with, literally, two faces. Yet his personality is essentially unchanged. We hear that he steals from Shaw because, “that’s just the kind of man he is.” Shaw tells us that he is impetuous and unpredictable. Atchison is SURE that Pearce will show up at the apartment. All of these elements about his personality have remained unchanged as he proves during the film, as his love for Elise has remained constant.
    Yet Elise, whose face is obsessively front and center of the screen has two personalities. She is constantly split — is she with Pearce, or with the Financial Division of the Metropolitan Police. Does she love Pearce…or Frank?
    This is a great message for American kids; that what you look like isn’t as important as who you are…and it is underscored in a joking way by the final line. This can be a great jumping off point for discussion, because we say that it’s your personality that counts, but it’s human to want to look attractive, or to want your mate to be attractive.
    Another topic for discussion for teens is this: Does Elise Ward exist in a world where not one other woman speaks? There are women of course; at the cafe, in the subway station, at the restaurant, at the ball — there’s even one at the police station (in Atchison’s office when Elise arrives) and one standing next to the ball organizer when he calls for her boat, and who can forget the one who sits next to the man on the train that Ward identifies before finding Frank? But there is not a single speaking part for a woman other than Jolie. Is there some meaning in this? Do you really want to be Elise Ward?
    Sorry if I’ve been ranting. The audience I was in was quite surprised at the “reveal” and although not as fun as the genre should be (Charade, To Catch A Thief)I think that the movie has more to offer a parent (especially during prime movie watching season) than your original review indicated.

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