Madame Bovary (1949)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Period Film, Romantic Drama  |   Run Time - 115 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Beautiful to look at but curiously hollow emotionally, Madame Bovary is not a totally satisfying adaptation of the Gustave Flaubert classic, but its assets tend to outweigh its deficits. While director Vincente Minnelli's work here is uneven, when it is good it's stunning -- as witnessed in the highly acclaimed waltz sequence, in which the camera seems to never hold still for a moment, as well as the elopement sequence and the courtroom scenes. At other times, Minnelli seems to be treading water, putting in acceptable but uninspired work as he waits for the next sequence that truly excites him. More consistent is Jennifer Jones, who surprises with her fiery sensitivity; the film's hollowness is certainly not due to her performance, which perfectly captures the complexities of the character. Van Heflin is good, although he seems to be holding back a bit, and James Mason captures attention in the unnecessary framing sections. Louis Jourdan and Gladys Cooper also turn in fine support, and the sets and costumes are sumptuous. Bovary may fall short in some areas, but its strengths are very strong indeed.