Review: ‘A Business Affair’

"A Business Affair" is an unremarkable contemporary dramatic comedy that underutilizes ordinarily finethesps. Theme of a lovely and talented woman's coming to terms with true independence has potential, but tedious misfire from Paris-born helmer Charlotte Brandstrom is neither here nor there. Cable sales and video rentals are likely on the strength of name cast.

“A Business Affair” is an unremarkable contemporary dramatic comedy that underutilizes ordinarily finethesps. Theme of a lovely and talented woman’s coming to terms with true independence has potential, but tedious misfire from Paris-born helmer Charlotte Brandstrom is neither here nor there. Cable sales and video rentals are likely on the strength of name cast.

Frenchwoman Kate Swallow (Carole Bouquet) works as a floor model at a London department store to support her adored celeb hubby of four years, grumpy novelist Alec Bolton (Jonathan Pryce), whose creative juices aren’t flowing. In her spare time, Kate is swiftly writing her own first novel on a laptop computer whose clicking keyboard drives laborious pen-and-ink Alec nuts. American mover and shaker Vanni Corso (Christopher Walken), a Sicilian whose maxim is “I figured if my father could sell pizzas in Harlem, I could sell culture in Europe ,” signs tony Alec to bolster the failing old London publishing firm he’s bought. But when Kate submits her book to Corso, Alec takes umbrage and the marriage begins to totter.

Corso courts and wins Kate, who eventually discovers that even he feels threatened by a successful woman.

Script — based on real-life travails of writer Barbara Skelton, but updated from the 1950s — lurches along, with the actors never seeming to inhabit their roles. Dialogue, while sometimes crude and snappy, rarely sounds spontaneous. Only Sheila Hancock acquits herself with dignity as Walken’s stiff-upper-lipped secretary.

Subplot of Pryce paying a matador to service Bouquet when she runs off to Spain plays like it was dropped in from another — equally mundane — movie. First scene with real feeling occurs 15 minutes from the end when divorced Pryce and Bouquet meet on the street.

Deliberately deglamorizing lighting is unflattering to all concerned. Even London’s Ritz Hotel is made to look pedestrian. Accordion-heavy score, while OK in itself, rarely suits the action. Nudity is tasteful.

A Business Affair

French-British-German-Spanish

Production

A Films Number One release (France) of an Osby Films (France)/Film & General Prods. (U.K.)/Connexion Films (Germany)/Cartel (Spain) production, with participation of Canal Plus, Prodeve, Sofiarp 2. (Intl. sales: Capella Intl.) Produced by Xavier Larere, Clive Parsons, Davina Belling. Co-executive producers , Martha Wansbrough, Willy Baer. Directed by Charlotte Brandstrom. Screenplay, William Stadiem, from a story by Stadiem and Brandstrom, based on Barbara Skelton's books "Tears Before Bedtime" and "Weep No More." Additional dialogue, Agnes Caffin.

Crew

Camera (color), Willy Kurant; editor, Laurence Mery-Clark; music, Didier Vasseur; production design, Sophie Becher; sound (Dolby), Steve Wheeler; associate producer, Diana Costes Brook. Reviewed at Cine Beaubourg Cinema, Paris , March 27, 1994. (In Gothenburg Film Festival.) Running time: 98 min.

With

Kate Swallow - Carole Bouquet
Vanni Corso - Christopher Walken
Alec Bolton - Jonathan Pryce
Judith - Sheila Hancock
With: Anna Manahan, Fernando Guillen Cuervo, Tom Wilkinson.
(English dialogue)

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