Greetings again from the darkness. It happens sometimes where the most memorable part of a movie is its setting. Plenty of non-descript westerns (and also some really good ones) took place in Monument Valley. MAMMA MIA! was fine, but that Greek isle of Skopelos was dreamy. Even those who aren’t big fans of Wes Anderson movies would likely agree that his sets and filming locations are something to behold. Somehow, director Sean McNamara surpasses all of these by filming inside and on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles, a truly gorgeous and historical setting.
As for the movie, the 1997 novel “The Moon and the Sun” by Vonda N McIntire has been adapted for the screen by a list of screenwriters including Ronald Bass, Barry Berman, Laura Harrington, and James Schamus. Since it’s told in a storybook format, with narration from the great Julie Andrews, one must fight the urge to label this as ‘heavy-borrowing’ from the 1987 classic, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, and instead view it as a historical-adventure-fantasy attempting to appeal to most everyone, while likely not satisfying any particular demographic … despite some worthy elements.
Pierce Brosnan stars as King Louis XIV (who became the longest ruling monarch between 1638-1715), known as The Sun King. He has just returned from a victorious battle when an assassin’s bullet reminds him of his own mortality, spurring a plan from the weirdo royal doctor, Dr. Labarthe (Pablo Schreiber). The plan involves sacrificing a mermaid during a lunar eclipse in order to capture the “light” from her heart and provide immortality to the King … for the good of France, of course. So the King sends dashing Captain Yves De La Croix (Benjamin Walker, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE KILLER, 2012) to find the lost City of Atlantis and capture one of the famed mermaids.
At the same time, the King has sent for his illegitimate daughter Marie-Josephe (Kaya Scoderlario, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES, 2017). She has lived her life in a nunnery, and now is to use her musical talent to takeover as the royal composer – whilst not knowing who her father is. Adding to the confusion is the King’s ulterior motive. The kingdom is in dire financial straits, and in addition to his own immortality, he also plans to have his daughter marry the son (Ben Lloyd Hughes, DIVERGENT, 2014) of the richest merchant in France. A dandy plan were it not for the independent-minded non-Princess falling hard for the swashbuckling Yves. Another complication arises when Marie-Josephe befriends the captive mermaid (Bingbing Fan), pitting the daughter against the father … a scenario many parents have experienced (only not typically with mermaids).
It’s only fair when discussing this movie to mention its own history. Filmed in 2014, the reasons for a delayed release are many and varied. No need to go into the studio and distributor issues, but you may have heard about Bingbing Fan’s (the mermaid) saga. She’s the biggest star in China, and in 2018 she disappeared for a few months after a tax evasion scandal. Fortunately, she’s back working. Another oddity, is that co-stars Kaya Scoderlario and Benjamin Walker met on this set, married a year later and now have two children. That’s how long ago this was filmed! Oscar winner William Hurt adds a touch of class as Father La Chaise, and the talented Rachel Griffiths makes a brief appearance as the Abbess. The film is plenty watchable, yet nothing really stands out as distinctive or memorable … of course, other than the breathtaking sights of the Palace of Versailles, including the stunning Hall of Mirrors.
Opening nationwide in theaters on January 21, 2022