Sunday, January 8, 2017

Anna and the King (1999)

IMDb plot summary: The story of the romance between the King of Siam and widowed British schoolteacher, Anna Leonowens, during the 1860s.
Directed by Andy Tennant. Starring Jodie Foster, Chow Yun-Fat, Bai Ling, and Tom Felton.


For the first half of the movie, I was having a surprisingly good time. I'd heard a lot of criticism when the movie was released, but I loved the lavish visuals, and the two leads created a pair that work well off each other. I was especially impressed by Jodie Foster, who disappeared into her role in a way I'd never seen her do before. The two cultures came together in a way that seemed very natural and realistic, a far cry from the almost cartoonish comedy in the Rodgers & Hammerstein version of the story, which is the only one I was familiar with.

Where the film goes off the rails, unfortunately, is in the latter half, where it tries to build both a love story and a dramatic political coup, both of which may be part of the original story (I've never read the book) but here they weaken the overall story. The romance is haphazard -- there's no doubt the two characters respect each other greatly, but then there's an abrupt understanding that they're both romantically interested, as if there's some missing scene with a lot more sexual tension in it that makes that subplot clear. The plotline involving the coup is potentially interesting, but falls flat partly because it tries to pull in the romantic aspect of it as well and give Anna the chance to save the day. It's a disappointing ending to what I thought was a thoughtful and charming beginning.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Anna and the King > Wedding Crashers
Anna and the King < Finder's Fee
Anna and the King < Kung Fu Hustle
Anna and the King > Lolita (1997)
Anna and the King < The Miracle Worker
Anna and the King < Letters from Iwo Jima
Anna and the King < Oliver Twist
Anna and the King < Star Trek: Generations
Anna and the King > 12 Angry Men (1997)
Anna and the King > Cabaret
Anna and the King > Serial Killer 1
Final spot: #1110 out of 2557.

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