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Review: 'The Woman in the Fifth' is murky, unsatisfying

June 22, 2012|By Gary Goldstein
  • A scene from "Woman in the Fifth."
A scene from "Woman in the Fifth." (ATO Pictures )

Too many questions and not enough answers haunt the slow-going mystery "The Woman in the Fifth,"a thankless lead vehicle for Ethan Hawke who's left largely stranded by writer-director Pawel Pawlikowski's opaque adaptation of Douglas Kennedy's novel.

Hawke stars as American writer Tom Ricks, a one-book wonder who arrives in Paris to reunite with his ex-wife, Nathalie (Delphine Chuillot), and their small daughter, Chloé (Julie Papillon). But complications instantly pile up: Nathalie blocks Tom from seeing Chloé, his money and belongings are stolen, Tom's dumpy hotel room comes complete with sinister proprietor (Samir Guesmi) and maniac neighbor (Mamadou Minté), plus he receives a death threat at the spooky, ill-explained security job he takes on.

On the upside — maybe — is the older, enigmatic Margit (Kristin Scott Thomas), the titular "woman" from Paris' fifth arrondissement, who gives Tom a hot bath and some good lovin' but, not surprisingly, may not be what she seems.

By the time Tom says, "I feel like the real me is somewhere else," we've pretty much caught on to the film's dreamlike vibe, and it's open season on logic and clarity, especially regarding Tom's actual past and present.

The film looks swell, however, thanks to Ryszard Lenczewski's beautiful compositions, which help divert attention from the rest of this unsatisfying puzzle.

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"The Woman in the Fifth." MPAA rating: R for some sexual content, language and violent images; in English and French with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.

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