Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Enchanted April

By David Luhrssen
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Escapism has seldom looked prettier, or been funnier, than in Enchanted April, the Oscar-nominated 1992 film out now on DVD. At least, escape is the plot device sprung by two unhappy Englishwomen in 1920s London, hoping for respite from the rain and grime (and their oafish husbands) on a one-month holiday in an Italian castle. Two other women join them, one an imperious old eccentric, the other a beautiful aristocratic playgirl. Whether they realize it or not, all of them are fleeing something.

On the surface, Enchanted April is a feminist comedy about women taking charge and leaving the men behind. Beyond that, the story has a deeper dimension of redemption through the spirit of generosity. Almost instantly, the dowdy English housewives (played by Josie Lawrence and Miranda Richardson) are transformed into pre-Raphaelite nymphs in the warm Mediterranean sun. The fuller regeneration takes a bit more time.

Based on the 1922 novel by Elizabeth von Arnim, Enchanted April is funny in a dry English way, a comedy of British manners, expertly delivered by a gold star cast directed by Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral).

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