Welcome to 16th century France, scene of bloody battles and even bloodier love affairs. As religious war tears the country apart, Marie de Mezières (Mélanie Thierry) sacrifices love for status as she’s forced into an affection-free marriage with Philippe de Montpensier (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet). Her heart still beats for dashing cousin Henri de Guise (Gaspard Ulliel), though, and it’s only a matter of time before she can resist him no more.
While its battle scenes wobble at times (look out for one spectacularly hilarious case of sword-under-arm death acting), Princess is saved by lush panoramas and a lively musical score that adds depth and scale where the budget clearly couldn’t. What’s most important, though, is the dramatic love triangle, which at times warps into a square – and then a pentagon – courtesy of dodgy prehistoric nuptial politics and a web of unrequited love.
Of which there is plenty. Replete with heaving bosoms and clandestine caresses, Princess delivers its breathless romanticism with a distinct French eloquence. It’s obviously striving for Dangerous Liaisons-style tragedy (Thierry even bears a striking resemblance to that film’s Michelle Pfeiffer), but Princess never quite gets there. That might be because the leads are all cast so young (in order to match the tender ages of the characters), which occasionally makes proceedings feel like am dram with posh frocks.
Not that the younglings aren’t up to the task. Leprince-Ringuet in particular cuts an impressive figure as the jealous husband who married for his love, but not hers. Meanwhile, Thierry is a beauty it’s easy to believe so many men are fighting over. The pair’s fussy fumbles do, however, hoist Lambert Wilson’s more intriguing story of questioning loyalty and battle-weary defiance into the background. All’s fair in love and war? Hardly, but it all makes for enjoyable entertainment all the same. 3/5
Via Out In The City