Mika Muller marries renowned pianist Andre Polonski in beautiful Lausanne Switzerland after his wife dies. Soon after 18-year-old pianist Jeanne Pollet learns that she and Polonski's son Guillaume were momentarily switched at birth at the hospital where they were born. When Jeanne's curiosity is further piqued by the coincidence that she not Guillaume shares Andre's gift for the piano she pays an unexpected visit to the Polonskis' lovely Lausanne home. There she meets the polite but detached Mika the somewhat aimless Guillaume and the pianist himself. Andre is taken with Jeanne's skill at the piano and offers to instruct her while Mika feigns tolerance. But Mika has other distractions: As head of her family's chocolate business she struggles to keep it on firm economic ground. Also on a more sinister note she tampers with the hot chocolate she often serves to the extent that it dangerously sedates those who drink it. After Mika clumsily spills the drink Jeanne's suspicions are aroused and her boyfriend Axel--a budding scientist--confirms that the hot chocolate is tainted. A tragic auto accident in which Andre's second wife was killed provides further clues. On a subsequent fateful night when Jeanne and Guillaume are driving together Mika is finally revealed to be the stone-cold monster that she is.
Once again Isabelle Huppert here starring as Mika takes on and owns the role of a totally repugnant person. Other examples include the recent The Piano Teacher and The Ceremony this latter also a collaboration of Nightcap's director Claude Chabrol and screenwriter Caroline Eliacheff. Huppert an amazing actress who is a vet of dozens of films has a challenge on her hands with Nightcap mainly because her villainous character is so Swiss bourgeois cold and abstruse. Still absenting the fact that Huppert doesn't spill chocolate very convincingly her performance mesmerizes. As Andre Jacques Dutronc familiar to French film fans convinces as the largely clueless pianist focused solely on his art. Others including Anna Mouglalis as Jeanne and Brigitte Catillon as her mother Louise are fine in their roles. Foreign film buffs will also welcome the participation of vet Swiss actor Michel Robin portraying one of Mika's pesky executives.
Vet French director Chabrol delivers beautiful Lausanne settings elegant music and mostly flawless bourgeois characters in a soapy melodrama that is easier to watch than believe. With scores of films to his credit Chabrol is a master of the kind of cool elegant ironic suspense that informs Nightcap but his problem here is that he doesn't have a terribly credible story. Still he elicits interesting performances from his actors and delivers a cool elegant style that befits the refined upper-class Swiss settings. As for irony Chabrol lays on a multitude of elegant music pieces (both from the classical repertoire and composed by his son Matthieu) that are an ironic counterpoint to the evil bubbling at the film's nasty core.
The plot starts off exciting enough: a motley group steals a rare gem but two of the thieves doublecross bad guy Patrick (Sean Bean) and take off with the precious stone. Jumping ahead 10 years we meet Dr. Nathan Conrad (Michael Douglas) a prominent New York psychiatrist with a loving wife (Famke Janssen) and an adorable 8-year-old daughter (Skye McCole Bartusiak). Life is good until Nathan is summoned by a colleague (Oliver Platt) to examine a disturbed young woman Elisabeth (Brittany Murphy). The next day he discovers the ruthless Patrick has kidnapped his daughter. The only way to get her back is to extract a six-digit number locked away in Elisabeth's troubled mind a number leading to the gem. But then the film lapses into the predictable: Nathan races to save his daughter and try to solve the puzzle of the traumatic event which sent Elisabeth off into la-la land.
Douglas certainly has had plenty of moments to shine in his career but this isn't one of them. He plays it pretty straight and boring leaving nothing to let him stretch his acting abilities. Following along the same lines Bean another fine actor who rarely gets to break out of the bad guy role plays a cookie-cutter villain with nothing more than his menacing looks and voice to keep him going. Murphy's performance as the complex Elisabeth has been talked about as Oscar bait-but we are not sure why. What starts off as an intriguing portrayal of yet another mentally disturbed character--her other being her role in Girl Interrupted which was much more interesting--dissolves into a lost-little-girl syndrome. Actually the two characters that stand out are Bartusiak as the spunky daughter and Jennifer Esposito (Summer of Sam) as a detective hot on the jewel thieves' trail.
Word starts off with such a bang you immediately get involved and think it may actually be a good movie. Director Gary Felder takes us right into Conrad's happy world and then turns it upside down when Conrad realizes what he must do to get his daughter back. It may be hard to believe Patrick after spending the last 10 years in jail would know that Elisabeth holds the key to finding the gem but the cat-and-mouse game Elisabeth plays with Dr. Conrad is fascinating. This plot device could have been taken into so many different directions especially since Douglas and Murphy have a very interesting rapport. Even the subplot involving the little girl and her attempts to escape while her mother with a broken leg tries desperately to find her could have been taken further. But the film goes ahead and ends predictably and we're left saying how much better we could have made it.
Elisabeth Shue, Oscar-nominated for Leaving Las Vegas, and Amy Brenneman, star of CBS' Judging Amy, embraced motherhood this week.
Shue, 37, delivered second child Stella with filmmaker husband Davis Guggenheim (Gossip). Their son, Miles William, was born in 1997. The couple was married in 1994.
Shue was last seen on the big screen in last summer's sci-fi flick Hollow Man opposite Kevin Bacon. The actress plans to work less and spend more time with her children.
"I will have to search harder and start developing things that I love, because there's no other choice. There will be ups and downs, but with my children, I know that I will have two more passengers along for the ride who are there to help me out," Shue told Rolling Stone recently.
Brenneman gave birth to daughter Charlotte in Los Angeles Tuesday. This is her first child with her husband, director Brad Silberling (Casper).
Brenneman, 36, was first noted in her nude scene as detective Janice Licalsi during the first season of the ABC police drama NYPD Blue. The actress recently appeared in the ensemble piece Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her with Glenn Close and Cameron Diaz, which debuted at last year's Cannes Film Festival.
In other baby-related news, Grammy Award-winner Shania Twain and husband, rock producer Robert ``Mutt'' Lange, are preparing for parenthood as well.
``Yes, Shania and her husband are expecting their first child,'' Samantha Johnson, Twain's spokeswoman at Universal Music Canada, confirmed, adding that she had no other details.
Twain, 35, is one of the best-selling female singers in history, with combined worldwide album sales of about 50 million.
The couple lives in Switzerland where Twain is also currently working on her fourth album, Johnson said.
What is it they say about a Rosie by any other name?
Probably that it'd be a much easier life. At least that's what a Portland, Ore., radio station will tell you after it was sued by handlers for talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell.
The station KRSK-FM is being ordered to stop referring to itself as "Rosie 105" by Warner Bros. and Telepictures, who produce and distribute "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." They say KRSK is using the comedienne's trademarked name without her permission.
The radio station, meanwhile, offers their defense: "Rosie" is named for Portland, known as the Rose City. We're assured they will not be giving away Ring Dings and koosh balls.
OY VEY?: It wouldn't be a new week without a new Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas item, now would it?
After you've taken the weekend to recover from the baby news, here's a new humdinger: She is considering converting to Judaism, according to a British newspaper.
That's because Douglas' family is Jewish, and the 30-year-old actress is rumored to be "fascinated" by the religion, even speaking to a rabbi about converting, according to the Mail. An unnamed source close to Zeta-Jones told the paper that "Michael and his family are very proud of their Jewish heritage. In Judaism, the mother pays a pivotal role in raising the children to honor their faith."
The couple, who will marry this year and are expecting their first child, have agreed to raise the baby as a Jew. News of the pregnancy broke Friday; Douglas, 55, spoke up about it to TV Guide Online. "Both of us are very happy," he said. "We would have preferred to have had the opportunity to make the announcement ourselves when we wanted to, rather than [the tabloids] simply picking us apart when they want to."
ONE SMART COOKIE: Elisabeth Shue's now after the one thing that escapes her: a college degree.
So she's returning to her almost alma mater -- Harvard, thank you very much -- to complete the one semester she needs to finish her degree in government. She attended the school in the 1980s after transferring from the all-girl Wellesley College, leaving around the time she got her first big role, in 1987's "Adventures in Babysitting."
But when she'll run with the Crimson again is still up in the air. "The timing depends on one more movie role she wants to do," her representative, Steven Huvane, told the New York Daily News.
ALL ABOUT ALMODîVAR: Pedro Almod-var, who takes the Roberto Benigni award for Most Unintelligible But Exciting speech at the Golden Globes, took best director and best film honors at the Spanish Goya Awards on Sunday.
The Goyas, named for the 18th century Spanish painter, are Spain's equivalent of the Oscars, and Almod-var, despite his many critical hits, had always failed to nab the prize. But this year, his film "All About My Mother" swept seven awards and is the Oscar favorite for Best Foreign Film.
The 48-year-old director dedicated the award to his mother, who died just after the film was released.
"I read in the newspaper that (collecting other film awards) I've never mentioned my mother. I did it deliberately -- I was waiting for this occasion," he said.
STRAIGHT FROM STONE: That Sharon Stone can always be counted on for notable quotables. The 41-year-old actress, who co-stars with Ellen DeGeneres as a lesbian couple in a segment of HBO's "If These Walls Could Talk 2," declares to TV Guide, "I'm exactly like a gay woman except I don't have sex with women."
She goes on to say, "I have people who are prejudiced against me for all kinds of stupid things. Because I'm tall or because I'm an actress, whatever. You never walk into any environment that people don't decide as you walk through the door what they like and don't like about you. That's about life."
As for DeGeneres, she quips, "I learned that I'm exactly like a straight woman but I don't have sex with a man." Thank you both for sharing.
QUICK TAKES: Armyan Bernstein has been named ShoWest's Producer of the Year for his work on "The Hurricane," which he also co-wrote. The honor, given by the National Association of Theater Owners, will be awarded at ShoWest's convention March 9 in Las Vegas ...
... Atom Egoyan's "Felicia's Journey" won four Genies, Canada's equivalent to the Oscar, on Sunday. The film took honors for screenplay adaptation, actor (Bob Hoskins), cinematography and original score. Best motion picture went to "Sunshine," a Canadian-German-Austrian-Hungarian film starring Ralph Fiennes, which also won for overall sound and sound editing.