With irregular fade outs, elevator muzak for a score, bad direction and a British cast pretending to be Spanish, Uncovered plays like a mix between a British television movie and a–Canadian–after school special (albeit one with a European approach to nudity). I’ve read the source novel, an intricate thriller, and this filmic adaptation is absent any suspense. That lack is a combination of elements. First, Jim McBride directs with less enthusiasm than a Pringles commercial. He avoids Barcelona scenery and actually makes the choice to flash back to the fifteen century. It’s like he was desperate to sell the finished product to a television network. The film has a few interesting moments–the art restoration scenes–but McBride brings nothing to it.
The next problem is that score. According to IMDb, Philippe Sarde has an inordinately prolific career (around two hundred films). Based on his work for Uncovered, I imagine only three of them aren’t atrocious.
So the combination of McBride and Sarde make Uncovered incredibly problematic, but with good direction and an acceptable score, could the film survive the production philosophy? Possibly.
The production philosophy is simple and unbelievably stupid. Uncovered requests the viewer ignore accents and ethnicity. It asks the viewer to ignore John Wood is British, it asks the viewer to pretend heavily accented Irishman Paudge Behan is a gypsy. A blond-haired, blue-eyed one who wears around Hawaiian shirts. Sinéad Cusack’s character is never defined as Spanish, so maybe that one’s forgivable. Kate Beckinsale’s character is apparently supposed to be British, just living in Barcelona for the majority of her life. As Spanish nobility, Michael Gough is funny enough to ignore the major problems.
But where Uncovered is conflicting is in its approach to the characters. Even if McBride can’t direct a scene, the conversations between the characters are startlingly refreshing and blunt. Beckinsale’s character’s obsession with her weight (probably direct from the novel, since the movie doesn’t show much ingenuity), is a welcome cinematic approach. It’s part of her character, not a plot point. It began before the present action and it’s going to continue following.
Also interesting is–again from the novel–the lurking danger of AIDS.
The character stuff–and the awkwardly successful romance between Beckinsale and Behan, mostly because Beckinsale’s good enough to rise above the defects–almost makes Uncovered all right. But then the end does it in, mostly because of the terrible score and Wood’s performance going down the toilet.
Had the filmmakers just set the movie in England and hired a decent director (it’d be hard to use Sarde’s score in England), Uncovered would have probably been all right. Had they gotten a good feminist rewrite of the script, it would have been excellent.
Directed by Jim McBride; screenplay by Michael Hirst, McBride and Jack Baran, based on a novel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte; director of photography, Affonso Beato; edited by Éva Gárdos; music by Philippe Sarde; production designer, Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski; produced by Enrique Posner; released by CiBy 2000.
Starring Kate Beckinsale (Julia), John Wood (Cesar), Sinéad Cusack (Menchu), Paudge Behan (Domenec), Peter Wingfield (Max), Helen McCrory (Lola), Michael Gough (Don Manuel) and Art Malik (Alvaro).