Surprise: Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp make living fabulously beautiful and wealthy look enviable
Published: December 15, 2010
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp raise the bar for total fantasy lifestyle porn in this positively regal dollop of absolute nothingness. Elise Ward (Jolie) is the beyond beautiful former paramour to one Alexander Pearce, a man who has been on the run—and reportedly undergone a multimillion dollar plastic surgery overhaul—from Scotland Yard and the British treasury, and from wealthy and well-dressed thug Reginald Shaw (Steven Berkoff, who played a similarly sophisticated baddie in Beverly Hills Cop), from whom Pearce stole a huge chunk of change. The Yard’s Inspector John Acheson (Paul Bettany) is foaming at the mouth to capture Pearce after chasing him for years and sinking many man hours and money into it. Shaw has a squad of suit-wearing hired Russian goons who hope Elise will lead them to Pearce, from whom they want to extract information about the whereabouts of Shaw’s money and then introduce him to a slow, torturous demise. Pearce knows two years is an eternity for somebody like Elise—she of the perfect hair and upper-crust British accent, at ease in white gloves and heels at a Parisian cafe—to wait for him. So he surreptitiously messages her to throw everybody off her trail by making surveillance teams think somebody else is him. All she has to do is board a train heading from Paris to Venice, pick somebody roughly his size and build, and sell the misdirection.
She chooses a vacationing American, Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp), a math teacher from Madison, Wisc. Frank isn’t merely not in Elise’s league, he’s practically the male version of a spinster librarian. He’s verbally clumsy, socially awkward, and more than a little intimidated by Elise—especially once they arrive in Venice and both law enforcement and Russian muscle assume he’s the man they’re after.
Of course, Depp is about as average an American as Jolie is a high-class Londoner, so while their Tourist roles don’t entirely fit, German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck—a brief pause to admire the greatest director’s name since, like, ever—at least makes the gambit fairly entertaining to watch. If the setup sounds familiar, it’s because The Tourist is a throwback to the sort of weightless adult entertainments that Hollywood seems to have stopped making after people such as Stanley Donen and Alfred Hitchcock went broad in movies such as Arabesque and North by Northwest. Von Donnersmarck’s work in The Tourist might not feel as stylish, but what spiked the screen in the Technicolor 1950s and ’60s doesn’t quite work anymore. Instead, von Donnersmarck makes action sequences more subtle—a foot chase over Venice’s tiled roofs, a moderate-speed boat chase through canals at night—while turning the volume way up on the extravagance. Jolie’s wardrobe is stunning, her hair is a sometimes architectural feat, and her jewelry alone could probably cover America’s unemployment benefits for the coming fiscal year. So while the twists and turns of the plot become a bit silly—think of The Tourist as an Ocean’s 11 that received a posh continental education—drinking in the extravagance on the road there is at least a pleasant, if inconsequential, dose of fantasy.
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