The Object of Beauty
Directed by Michael Lindsay. Starring John Malkovich, Andie Macdowell, Lolita Davidovich. (1991)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 10, 1991
The yuppie dream of an unencumbered life where style always exceeds substance is at the crux of The Object of Beauty. Malkovich and MacDowell are indolent young Americans living in a luxury hotel in London. They ran out of cash well before the movie ever started and they are both ill-equipped to earn more. Their problem, as they see it, is liquidity. MacDowell owns a valuable bronze statuette sculpted by Henry Moore which she keeps on the nightstand by the bed. They discuss stealing it from themselves and collecting the insurance money but reject the plan. So, when the valuable little artwork is discovered missing, each of them suspects the other. They spend the rest of the movie circling each other with suspicion, curiosity and doubt -- although that doesn't seem to get in the way of their impeturbable indolence. They aspire to be the idle rich. In their own way they are objects of beauty. Statues. Works of art. But they come through this experience the better for it. Improved, enriched (both financially and spiritually). And it's this moral semi-uplift that makes you want to choke a little bit. The Object of Beauty has long lulls while the subjects loll and we gaze at their splendid vacuity. And they are lovely to look at. Malkovich has made an art out of portraying oddly distasteful characters with compelling charm and wit. MacDowell teeters between drowning in the stagnant drama and pulling off several graceful and captivating moments as the madcap human bauble. Many moments in this movie are unexpectedly bewitching but still more of the scenes roll on endlessly, aimlessly; trying to create some kind of substance out of the very lack of substance. Ultimately your relationship to this movie may depend on the relationship you have with the characters. Partly likable and partly odious, your reaction may depend on whether, like the proverbial glass of water, you see their lives as half empty or half full.