May 4, 2014

Review: Joan of Arc (1999)

Joan of Arc is TV movie that preceded the release of the theatrical Joan of Arc film starring Milla Jovovich by a few months in 1999. The titular character is played by Leelee Sobieski which isn't too shabby of a casting decision because she is reportedly fluent in French. As is expected though, this is a movie for a North American audience, so English is the only language that is spoken. So in the end Leelee only gets to use her talent for a couple words here and there.

I saw the theatrical version not too long ago, so it's still fresh in my mind. In comparison, the TV movie plays things much safer. There is no bizarre modern dialogue being used and the music is more traditional, if a bit dull. Director Christian Duguay of Outremont, Quebec seems to have a thing for action movies which doesn't really show in Joan of Arc. The battle scenes are realistic but not very exciting. The final battle is especially disappointing because it's honestly just a slow-motion montage with music. The theatrical version on the other hand had some spectacular battles with the steady hand of Luc Besson directing.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Genre: adventure, biography, drama
Directed by: Christian Duguay
Produced by: Peter Bray, Graham Flashner, Ed Gernon, etc.
Written by: Michael Alexander Miller, Ronald Parker
Music by: Asher Ettinger, Tony Kosinec
Running time: 180 minutes
Production company: Alliance Atlantis Communications, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Distributed by: Columbia Broadcasting System, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Herald Film Company, etc.
Country: Canada
Language: English
Budget: $20,000,000
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Leelee Sobieski, Jacqueline Bisset, Powers Boothe, Neil Patrick Harris, Maury Chaykin, Olympia Dukakis, Jonathan Hyde, Robert Loggia, Shirley MacLaine, Peter O'Toole, Maximilian Schell, Peter Strauss, Chad Willett, Ron White, Jaimz Woolvett, Ted Atherton, Robert Haley  

_______________________________________________________________________________III

Review


The historical story of Joan of Arc is an interesting one. As a young girl, she begins to hear voices that compel her to eventually lead men into battle to unify France. It's crazy to think of what she accomplished at only 18 years old. All the same, the whole voices thing begs the question, was she just nuts? Who really know?

Unlike Milla Jovovich's very intense portrayal, Leelee Sobieski plays things cool. Maybe a bit too cool. To be honest, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of emotion put into her character and she comes off as very cold and empty. When it comes to scenes where she's upset, it's just awkward. I can say that Sobieski looks the part of Joan, but she doesn't embody anyone. It just looks like she's memorized lines and delivers them without really being a character. It's definitely not the finest example of acting.

The supporting characters that back Sobieski up are pretty good though. There are some huge names like Shirley MacLaine who has a slightly more than a cameo role and Peter O'Toole who plays Bishop Cauchon. Without a doubt, O'Toole is the most interesting to watch out of the bunch. I have to say that Neil Patrick Harris is actually pretty good as the Dauphin of France which took me aback.

Joan of Arc is a pretty long movie, in some places referred to as a two part miniseries. It has a decidedly TV feel in terms of cuts and editing in certain places seems a bit rough. The score feels pretty "TV" as well with low production values. I can say that the costumes are pretty well done though.

Compared to the theatrical Joan of Arc, this TV version definitely feels like it should be on TV and nothing more. It's a watchable movie in terms of learning the story of Joan of Arc but nothing more than that really. It seems to be well researched but lacks a good performance from its most important character. I know that Leelee Sobieski was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance but I don't feel like she deserved it. Who did deserve something though was Peter O'Toole. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for best supporting actor and won an Emmy for his role. In this case, it was deserved but I can't say that I've seen the movies that his competition were in.

In the end, Joan of Arc isn't very compelling and belongs on TV. The character of Joan of Arc is the most important aspect of this story and Leelee's performance falls flat. Milla Jovovich's portrayal in her version isn't that much better but you can tell she really gets into the character. It's worth watching Joan of Arc for its story and Peter O'Toole but that's really about it.

Rating


5.5/10