The Triumph of Love

The Triumph of Love is an old-fashioned screwball farce, adapted from the Maurivaux's old play. The stage origins are obvious, and director Clare Peploe (Rough Magic, Highway Season) even acknowledges these origins in a bizarre sort of way near the end of the movie. Overall, it is an amusing romp through the large estate of an esteemed philosopher. The film is never manages to muster as much sheer fun as it thinks it does, but it is watchable on a superficial level. Everything revolves around the machinations of a Princess (Mira Sorvino, Bamboozled, Summer of Sam) and her attempts to win the heart of Agis (Jay Rodan, The Caveman's Valentine). Agis lives in seclusion with Hermocrates (Ben Kingsley, A.I., Sexy Beast), and one of Hermocrates' rules is that Agis stay away from all women. The Princess espied Agis and for a couple of reasons wants to woo him, so she vowed to win his heart.

In order to do so, she needs to somehow sneaks into the Hermocrates' house. She disguises herself as a man, and goes by the name Phocion in order to weasel her way into the house. Then, she realizes that she needs to figure out a way to stay, so she begins wooing Leontine (Fiona Shaw, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Mind Games), Hermocrates' sister. She has influence in determining who can stay with Hermocrates. Leontine introduces "Phocion" to Hermocrates, who instantly sees through the disguise. Thinking on her feet, the Princess claims to be Aspasie, a woman in love with his vast intellect. When she finally meets Agis, they quickly become friends because of Agis' apparent lack of company. The Princess needs to deftly juggle her obligations and think on her feet in dealing with Leontine, Hermocrates, and Agis, and things quickly spiral out of her control. The performances by Sorvino, Kingsley, and Shaw are all suitably over-the-top to match the material. Sorvino does have a wonderfully sly look as the Princess, and it's easy to imagine everybody falling under her spell.

In short order, she has all three madly in love wit her (of course, after Agis discovers she is a woman). The stated goal of wooing Agis is lost amid trying to outwit Leontine and Hermocrates. The Princess is a smart woman, and able to match wits with Hermocrates. She can think quickly on her feet, which enables her to get as far as she does, and also is the cause of many of her problems late in the movie. Although she does have a lot to deal with, it never seems like her problems are that substantial. Just when something is about to happen, Jason Osborn's score (with an odd assist by David Gilmour) soars, then everything falters. It's as if Peploe's adaptation, with the help of Marilyn Goldin, Camille Claudel, The Big Blue) and husband Bernardo Bertolucci (Besieged, Stealing Beauty) always stops short before taking any risks. They keep their reins on events so that they come close to spiraling out of control, but never reach that point. Consequently, The Triumph of Love is not able to lose itself in its own feelings, so it merely feels half-done.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 52 minutes, Rated PG-13 for some nudity and sensuality.

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