Dangerous Beauty (1998)
Catherine McCormack, Rufus Sewell, Jacqueline Bisset, Oliver Platt, Moira Kelly,
Fred Ward, and Jeroen Krabbé.
Screenplay by Jeannine Dominy, based on The Honest Courtesan by Margaret Rosenthal.
Directed by Marshall Herskovitz.
Review by Carlo Cavagna.
Catherine McCormack (Braveheart) is Veronica Franco, a young woman in 16th-century Venice who falls for nobleman Marco Venier (Rufus Sewell) but can't marry him because he is too far above her social station. Veronica is left without prospects for her future and so her mother Paola (Jacqueline Bisset) urges Veronica, as any good mother would, to do what Paola and Paola's mother did before her--become a courtesan. Paola then trains Veronica in the secrets of the family trade--teaching her how to carry herself, how to attract a man, and how to caress a penis. Thanks, Mom!
With her beauty, her skill at improvising verse on the spur of the moment, and her ability to say unabashedly the word "prick" in public, Veronica is soon enchanting the court and determining the course of empires while the unhappy Marco watches jealously. Her...um...assets are declared a national asset. However, the fortunes of Venice's courtesans are short-lived, as Venice is soon beset by war, plague, and fanatical zealotry. In an absurdly over-choreographed climactic scene, Veronica must defend her life to an ecclesiastical court. It turns into a lecture on feminism and the hypocrisy of the church, of course. Though Dangerous Beauty has revealed its message for two hours via the events that take place, it can't resist spelling it out explicitly, just in case you didn't get it.
Dangerous Beauty juggles comedy, drama, and heaving bosoms, sometimes successfully, other times awkwardly. Catherine McCormack's uber-prostitute and Oliver Platt's Maffio Venier (Marco's cousin, a sort of court jester who becomes insanely jealous of Veronica and finally winds up as the priest who prosecutes her) are highly contrived characters, even though the story is supposedly true. The result is that Dangerous Beauty is little more than a fancy bodice-ripper with a political message. If you are entertained by lush period pieces with an abundance of naked breasts, then Dangerous Beauty is an enjoyable two hours. Otherwise, you can safely pass it over.
Review © March 1999 by AboutFilm.Com and
Images © Regency Enterprises/Warner Bros.
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