Charlize Theron is perfectly cast as an upper-crust wild girl, Gilda, at the centre of a risqué love triangle with a Spanish refugee (Penelope Cruz) and lower-class, Irish lad (Stuart Townsend) in this pulpy, period melodrama. However, what promises to be a lavish epic of Thirties decadence and mad heroism soon gets mired by its dreary execution.
Over the course of the two hours, the film plods from Cambridge and Paris in the Thirties, to the Spanish Civil War and back to Britain and Paris in the Second World War, regaling us with lavish sets (one in a huge country house with Steven Berkoff putting in a memorable cameo as Gilda's fascistic father) and a war-torn romance too circuitous to revisit here.
Theron is glamorous to the hilt, but in spite of the three main actors' efforts they are trapped in a two-dimensional world. Their situations feel contrived and forced. Even the scenery looks as if it's trying too hard.
Writer-director John Duigan's style is too formal, too TV, to capture the free-spirited mood of the times. Maybe he should take a leaf out of Guy Madden's demented Thirties melodrama The Saddest Music in the World. Okay, so it's an extreme example, but a little more risk-taking in the storytelling might have allowed his saga to take flight.