"Gender Bender Farce"
What You Need To Know:
The comedy in TRIUMPH OF LOVE comes fast and furious. TRIUMPH OF LOVE is a professional triumph for Mira Sorvino, who effortlessly handles many lines of difficult dialogue. Sir Ben Kingsley and Fiona Shaw are also wonderful as the rational philosopher and his scientific sister. The only problem is that the filmmakers seem much too delighted in pushing the modern homosexual and feminist implications in this comedy of manners. MOVIEGUIDE® therefore advises caution
(B, Ro, H, Ho, Fe, LL, V, S, N, A, M) Moral worldview with light Romantic, pragmatic, homosexual, and feminist implications; about two or three light obscenities and eight light profanities; mild slapstick violence; two women kiss, though one woman thinks the other woman is a man; brief rear nudity; alcohol use; no smoking; and, deceit.
Hollywood doesn’t do zany, screwball comedies like they used to do. Leave it to Clare Peploe, the wife of Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci, to dust off a 300-year-old French farce and show Hollywood how it’s done. The key, of course, is to play the crazy comical antics as fast and furious as possible, as Howard Hawks did in HIS GIRL FRIDAY starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell and as Peter Bogdanovich did in WHATS UP, DOC? starring Ryan O’Neal and Barbra Streisand.
Based on a 1732 French play, TRIUMPH OF LOVE stars Mira Sorvino as the princess of a kingdom who falls in love with Agis, the real heir to the throne which her father stole. Determined to win the prince and restore him to his crown, with her by his side, the princess must pose as a young male philosophy student. Agis, it seems, is protected by a rational, woman-hating philosopher named Hemocrates, played by Sir Ben Kingsley of GANDHI and SCHINDLER’S LIST. Hemocrates lives with his scientific spinster sister Leontine, played by Fiona Shaw. They have raised Agis to avoid all things romantic.
Slipping back and forth between male and female personalities, the princess whittles away the defenses of everyone in the philosopher’s secluded villa. In the process, however, the princess winds up being engaged to Agis, Hemocrates and Leontine. As she tries to untangle this sticky web of deceit, she risks losing the very person she was aiming for in the first place.
Originally, this gender bender play by French writer Pierre Marivaux was an attempt to attack the Age of Reason that gripped France in the 18th Century. It still has something to say to today’s audience, however. As director Clare Peploe notes, “I was very interested in the idea that Marivaux seemed to be saying that there can’t be success in love or life without a wise balance between rational thought and passionate emotions.” This intent comes across quite strongly in this version of the play. This is especially true in the scenes where Hemocrates struggles with his rational philosophies and his passion for the young princess, whose masculine disguise he has seen through almost from the beginning he met her.
Mira Sorvino is delightful as the quick-witted princess who knows exactly how to burst the rational bubble with which Hemocrates and Leontine have surrounded both Agis and themselves. TRIUMPH OF LOVE is truly a professional triumph for her. Sir Ben Kingsley and Fiona Shaw are a joy as well, especially Kingsley, who is the consummate professional British actor. Jay Rodan as Agis is clearly not as experienced as these three, but he manages to hold his own for the most part. Still, a more experienced young actor would definitely have helped in this important role. Also, the age differences between the actors undermine the credibility of the piece.
Everything turns out okay in the end. Love is victorious, and the true ruler is able to take his throne. There are some dicey moments, however, when the princess poses as a man to seduce the philosopher’s spinster sister. The filmmakers seem to stress the homosexual implications in the play too strongly at times. Thus, the filmmakers seem much too delighted in pushing the modern homosexual and feminist implications in this comedy of manners. MOVIEGUIDE® therefore advises caution.