Stealing Beauty (1996)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Romantic Drama  |   Release Date - Jun 14, 1996 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 119 min.  |   Countries - France, United Kingdom, Italy, United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Karl Williams

This drama from Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci has the pastoral look and tone to place it in the company of such sleepy rural passion plays as Enchanted April (1992) and A Month by the Lake (1995). What Bertolucci and his co-screenwriter Susan Minot have failed to provide, however, is a strong protagonist to make the visually pleasant journey worthwhile. The elements are there: an interesting cast of supporting characters, the lush backdrop of the Italian countryside, a minor mystery, and an undercurrent of sexuality. What's missing is a lead that can bring all of these disparate ingredients together into an edible concoction. As conceived by the script, the character of Lucy Harmon is a nonentity, existing only as an empty vessel into which the hopes, dreams, and lusts of others are poured. The pouting, nubile Liv Tyler is the perfect choice for the part at the perfect age to play it. It's too bad then that she's embodying a role that seems nearly mythic in its disassociation from anything even remotely human; she could just as well be an elf, ghost, or alien as a flesh and blood teenage girl, possessing literally no thoughts, inspirations, or emotions of her own. Bertolucci's bedazzled vision of a horny girl-woman suffers from a philosophical flaw, the inability to recognize individuality and personality in youth. Lucy just isn't a believable person, so Stealing Beauty (1996) crumbles down around her thinly conceived shoulders.