16 November 2005 | laurakay76
I couldn't turn it off
I've never seen the original ALIW with Hepburn, so I wasn't able to make comparisons there. I did see a stage version, years ago at my old university, so I was familiar with the plot and characters.
Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close have wonderful chemistry. I freely admit that I could watch Stewart sit on a chair and read from the phone book, but he makes an absolutely commanding Henry II. Close is alternately domineering and fragile, but always riveting. Their separate scenes are elegant, but they shine most when they play off of each other; Henry and Eleanor have a fascinating dynamic, and the interaction between husband and wife is dazzling.
I was less enamored with the performances of the three English princes. Andrew Howard's Richard was done well enough, particularly the scenes where he was portraying softer emotions. John Light's Geoffrey didn't seem quite right to me, but that may not be his own fault; the actor who played Geoffrey in the stage version I saw was a friend of mine, so my opinion of the character will forever be biased. Rafe Spall's John was utterly appalling -- but he was supposed to be, so does the fact that I absolutely loathed him mean he was brilliant?
Yuliya Vysotskaya was a luminous Alais. She has a splendid range and presence, and I wish she would do more acting projects that would let her be seen in the U.S. She has a charming ethereal quality when the script calls for it, yet can be equally hard as needed.
For me, though, the best performance was that of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who I found utterly captivating as King Philip of France. He steals every scene in which he appears, and gives the young King just the right balance of anger, slyness, contemplation, and humor. (And let's be honest, he's not really hard on the eyes either.)
On the whole, I couldn't bring myself to stop watching the movie until it was over, and it's definitely one I would be happy to watch again.