It's possible that I just don't get it, that Quills
is too artistic for me to comprehend. Or maybe Quills is just whack.
If it had a few more jokes, it could have been called Monty Python and
the Marquis de Sade. I kept expecting to see Terry Jones as a Nun
or Michael Palin and John Cleese as inmates of the asylum. As it
is, this movie is a horrible mishmash. It's like a bad Marquis de Sade
story but maybe that was what they were going for. It's not clear what
the problem is. The director, Philip Kaufman is good. He directed such
movies at The Right Stuff
and The Unbearable Lightness
of Being. The story is from a play which may explain some of the staginess.
It doesn't help that there are a couple of actors that I don't really care
for. Geoffrey Rush, of course, is the Marquis de Sade and he can
eat the scenery with the best of them. But he gives me the willies. And
then there is Joaquin Phoenix. I didn't get him in Gladiator
and I don't get him here. His brother
had more acting talent in his little finger than Joaquin will ever have.
The plot, such as it is, follows the last few months of the Marquis de
Sade's life. He is an inmate in an insane asylum run by a Priest
(Phoenix). The Marquis is still writing and smuggling his stories
out with the help of a washerwoman (Kate Winslet). Everyone in Paris
reads and loves or hates his books including Napoleon himself who orders
a stop to it. A famous doctor (Michael Caine) is called in. The doctor
has his own psychological problems with sex involving his inability to
satisfy his young wife and he takes out his repressed anger on the Marquis.
Caine seems to have saved his Ebenezer Scrooge character and clothes from
Muppet Christmas Carol. Among the cast, Winslet does the best
with her role. This story reads like a very bad romance novel or a bad
comedy. I can't tell which. The acting or maybe I should say
the overacting is so broad that you want to laugh but then these Monty-Python-like
characters start doing all sorts of evil things to each other and that
takes some of the fun out of it. And all they do is talk about
sex rather than doing it. Maybe I'm just tired of these stories
that spiral down to a disaster that you can see coming from scene one.
Geoffrey Rush is nominated for an Oscar for this role. There's no accounting