Having scripted this moribund adaptation of his own meticulously wrought, black comic novel, Patrick McGrath must take some blame, but Davidson's stultifying direction and listless performances from Sting and Bates deal the death blow. In the novel, McGrath evokes an atmosphere of Gothic gloom, moral decay and insidious malice; here his elegant weirdness and sly humour sink into a bog of boredom. The new obsequious butler Fledge (Sting) insinuates himself into the postwar household of Sir Hugo Coal (Bates), an eccentric aristo who hopes to stun the Royal Society with his crackpot theories of dinosaur genealogy. Seduced by Fledge's charm, Sir Hugo's wife Harriet (Russell) becomes embroiled in a subtle conspiracy that undermines her husband's authority, compromises her daughter Cleo's marriage plans, and culminates in the death of Cleo's would-be suitor Sidney Giblet (Mackintosh). Sting fails to capture the class hatred and sly ambition that inform Fledge's actions, and it's a crime to have wasted such character actors as Carter, Massey and Mills on such a dramatically dull, visually impaired treatment.
Cast and crew
Patrick McGrath, John-Paul Davidson
Alan Bates Theresa Russell Sting Lena Headey Steven Mackintosh Jim Carter Anna Massey Trudie Styler Maria Aitken James Fleet John Mills Annette Badland