It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Liv Ullmann's car breaks down in Greece, and she is on the point of total frustration when a young American pulls up on his motor scooter. He offers her a ride into town. She cannot take it; she is too old, she says, to be dashing around on motor scooters. She is, after all, 36. The youth's eyes light up, as whose would not when confronted by Liv Ullmann, and he launches a seduction attempt that begins with a shot of ouzo and ends with love on the beach.
But Liv slips away in the dawn, and the two lovers don't meet until months later, in New York, when he shows up as her daughter's date. Electricity fills the air. The daughter is abandoned to her pool game, which is pretty good. Love blooms. But there's still this problem. He's 22, and she's 36 . . . well, 38 . . . 40, actually. "Forty Carats," a movie made from a Broadway play which, in turn, was adapted from a French play (can we expect the stage musical soon?), attacks this problem with a great deal of romantic zeal. But it's a little hard to care. We don't really mind whether she's 40 and he's 22; what we care about is what they're like, and whether as fictional characters they can hold our interest. They don't, alas, and so the movie bogs down in the sort of theoretical dialog George Bernard Shaw would have written had he lacked wit.
In trying to figure out why I was personally unmoved by the dilemma in the movie, I finally arrived at Liv Ullmann. It is simply not possible to accept her as a conservative 40 year-old woman, uncertain of her attractiveness and shy about accepting love. That isn't the Liv Ullmann we know. The things that are said about her character in "Forty Carats" simply don't apply to the person we see, who is radiant, beautiful and supremely sure of herself.
The question I was left with after the movie was an opposite one: How could such a beautiful woman ever fall for a chump like the kid? The 22 year-old is played by Edward Albert, recently seen in "Butterflies Are Free." He's sort of wooden and a little too handsome, and he doesn't seem to love her, he seems to want to reason with her. It's as if he can bring her around with pure logic. That may theoretically be possible, but it's less fun than the other ways.
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