Owen Gleiberman
May 03, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Impromptu

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG-13
runtime
107 minutes
performer
Hugh Grant, Judy Davis, Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters, Julian Sands, Emma Thompson
director
James Lapine
distributor
MGM Home Entertainment
author
Sarah Kernochan
genre
Historical, Drama

We gave it a D

A near-fiasco, though it sounded like a great idea: Judy Davis, the supremely earthy Australian actress from My Brilliant Career and A Passage to India, as renegade 19th-century novelist George Sand, who dressed in men’s clothes and believed in free love long before the term was invented. During a two-week retreat at a country estate, Sand goes gaga over Frederic Chopin (Hugh Grant), who turns out to be an innocent simpleton. Sand doesn’t mind: She’s so taken with his music that she knows she’s found a soul mate. Impromptu, which wants to be a celebration of love and art, takes off from the eminently funny and promising idea that Sand and her circle of artist friends had romantic and sensual appetites every bit as powerful as their creative fervor. Unfortunately, director James Lapine attempts to demonstrate this by turning the characters into amorous clowns out of a campy soap opera; the fact that there are famous names pasted onto all the twittery shenanigans only makes the film feel that much more like a Monty Python sketch. Even Davis is vaguely embarrassing. As Sand, she’s supposed to respond to Chopin’s music because she hears its depth and artistry — but judging from how swoony and girlish she gets every time he sits down at the piano, she could just as well be fawning over the latest Michael Bolton single. D

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