March 13, 1998 in Seven

Beauty, , But It’s Only Skin Deep

Bob Fenster The Arizona Republic

Dangerous Beauty” is the kind of feminist film that could have been made only by a man.

Although attempting to advance the cause of women’s liberation by rewriting history, the movie caters to male lust with the saga of a sexy fighting feminist who revels in the joys of the courtesan’s life.

Supposedly based on the biography of a courtesan and set in Venice in the 16th century, the movie begs for an answer to the question: Did anything remotely like this actually happen?

In historic Venice, I doubt it. In Hollywood? Every day.

Veronica (Catherine McCormack) is a headstrong but naive young woman who can’t marry the man she loves, Marco (Rufus Sewell), because his family is rich and powerful and hers is not.

Instead, Veronica’s mother (Jacqueline Bisset) trains her daughter to become a courtesan: a high-priced combination of fashion model, entertainer and prostitute for the amusement of the wealthy men of Venice.

Veronica uses her wits to win favors at court and her favors in the boudoir to gain power and wealth.

“Dangerous Beauty” has a pretty setting, peopled with pretty actors, everything bathed in romantic gold shades. What’s lacking is a convincing story.

The film is sold on its promise of exotic erotica. Make that erotica lite. Much is suggested as to the charms of the courtesan. Little is revealed.

To pad out the slim proceedings, director Marshall Herskovitz (“Jack the Bear”) turns Veronica into a 16th-century feminist who is as quick with her sword as her spontaneous poetry.

He also tries to advance the doomed love affair between Veronica and Marco as a romance that will attract the sympathies of women in the audience. Although McCormack looks noble and Sewell looks moon-eyed, they don’t look like they’re in love.

To wrap it all up in a dramatic showdown, Herskovitz proposes a trial scene that even John Grisham would be too embarrassed to write, we hope.

“Dangerous Beauty” might have been successful as a young woman’s erotic journey if it had been made 20 years ago. Seems rather sedate and uneventful now.



Location: North Division

Credits: Directed by Marshall Herskovitz, starring Catherine McCormack, Rufus Sewell, Oliver Platt, Moira Kelly, Fred Ward and Jacqueline Bisset

Running time: 1:55

Rating: R


Here’s what other critics say about “Dangerous Beauty:”

Robert W. Butler/The Kansas City Star: “Dangerous Beauty” would like to view itself as striking blow for women’s liberation.

Too bad that the movie’s esthetic heart is so firmly set in the world of Harlequin Romances.

William Arnold/Seattle Post-Intelligencer: It’s primarily a star vehicle for Catherine McCormack, a 26-year-old British actress who, if not quite yet a movie-star, is definitely easy to look at, and, in her better moments, projects both intelligence and character.

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