Impromptu [1991]

Still more Victorian country-house shenanigans: novelist George Sand (Judy Davis, affected but pretty darn charming) has eyes for Franz Liszt's young protégé Chopin (Hugh Grant, solid as always, but burdened by a silly Polish accent and a script that never lets him stretch out), but various lovers, jealous rivals, and Chopin's own overdeveloped sense of propriety conspire to confound her. Impromptu is witty but overlong--probably 20 minutes of hijinks and repartee, not to mention several completely gratuitous and redundant characters, could have been sliced from the film. Davis plays Sand as an impetuous, overgrown tomboy, outraging her genteel hosts by wearing pants, chomping cigars, and falling off horses; her coterie of artist-friends assure us, in a series of naked plot devices, that she nonetheless has a heart of gold. It's all good silly fun, and about as feminist as your average Def Leppard video--the other two developed female characters are ugly stereotypes: a featherbrained, feckless social climber (Emma Thompson, who once again proves she's up for anything) and a spiteful, back-stabbing shrew (the ever-capable Bernadette Peters). Director James Lapine clearly belongs to the Dr. Quinn school of historical accuracy, so don't expect to learn anything about the period or the artists themselves. Impromptu is far more Melrose Place than Mrs. Dalloway, or perhaps best described as an episode of Entertainment Tonight set in the 19th century. --Miles Bethany

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