Ricks' (Ethan Hawke) life is our of control - separated from his wife, he heads to Paris in search of his daughter and the bohemian life of a would-be writer. But a series of encounters with the wrong kind of people start to push him towards free fall, until he meets mysterious emigre, Margit (Kristin Score Thomas), who seduces him and appears to offer him the hedonistic and uncomplicated life he craves...
Sort of erotic ghost story - hoped it would be better
- The Woman In The Fifth review by RP
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You rated this film: 2
Hmmm.... This is one of those annoying films which, if you've read the book, you will find very disappointing. While the core of the storyline is similar - American in Paris is smitten with mysterious woman who comes to dominate him - virtually every surrounding detail has been changed.
In the book, Harry Ricks is an Ohio small-time college film studies prof on the run from being sued for bringing the college into disrepute after a dodgy affair with a student, who hightails it to Paris because that's where he and his ex-wife once wanted to settle. Here, he's Tom Ricks, a Minnesota literature prof and published novelist, who has a French wife and small daughter in Paris and who turns up after some unspecified hospitalisation? prison sentence? In the book, he contacts his teenage daughter by email from an Internet cafe. In the film he watches her at kindergarten. The background details to the story are simply so different and much of the detail of the poor immigrant community among which he lives is just lost. Likewise the name, nationality and backstory of the mystery woman, the 'woman in the fifth' (arrondissement) are also changed.
The film is a sort of erotic ghost story in which the mystery woman - well played by Kristin Scott Thomas - is a sort of guardian angel (or perhaps 'guardian succubus' might be a better description) looking out for the rather unlikeable Ricks character, taking revenge on his enemies and threatening Tom/Harry until he does her bidding. In the book, this revelation takes place only in the last ¼ or so of the pages - the other ¾ is the story detail that is missing from the film, and the denouement is the ruination of his wife's lover the college dean, and the life threatening illness of his daughter back in the US. In the film, she is lost in the woods of the Bois de Boulogne. Boring.
The book is not the best I have read and the film is not the best I have seen. The major differences from the book spoiled it for me and I can only give it 2/5 stars. I had hoped it would be better :(
Tom Ricks (Ethan Hawke) is an American novelist and professor who decides to visit his wife and daughter in France. Trouble is, they’ve been divorced and estranged, his wife does not want him there –there’s an actual restraining order after violence in the past- and his daughter has been told he’s been dead. As Tom flees, he sleeps on a bus and awakes, his belongings stolen, and arrives at a stop where seedy doesn’t even begin to describe it.
He finds himself asking for a job from a sketchy character named Sezer, buzzing in people with a password, no questions asked, in exchange for room and board. And there, Tom also meets the enigmatic and beautiful Margit (Kristin Scott-Thomas) who tells him she was once a muse to her ex-husband writer and she can be the same for him. Margit is ‘The Woman in the Fifth’ (since she lives in the Fifth Arrondissement) and this psycho-thriller is directed by Pawel Pawlikowski (‘My Summer of Love’.)
Although entitled ‘The Woman in the Fifth’ (based on the novel by Douglas Kennedy), it is really about Ethan Hawke’s Tom, a complex character that has his past, present, and future colliding and somehow making its audience question what the heck is going on. Don’t worry, ‘The Woman in the Fifth’ is not David Lynch-ian yet with the twists, turns, and confusions, but it tries to be. The main concept for this film feature is letting you in on a need-to-know basis – the rest is up to you.
If you want to sell ‘The Woman in the Fifth’ as something to watch, you should say it’s about a struggling writer experiencing a case of mental block. It happens to the best of authors and Tom is no different. He is down, out, and totally out of touch, he has forgotten how it is to be a writer and Kristin Scott-Thomas’ alluring muse is willing and able to bring him back to his fine form. That should be simple enough.
Don’t expect it to be that other writer film ‘The Shining’. But it can get scary.