Those who’ve followed the buzz on The Tourist will notice it’s been lambasted to hell and back by critics and audiences alike. From allegations of zero chemistry between leading stars Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp to a so-called haphazardness in tone, it’s less Cary Grant than Cary Can’t, many have claimed.
This is a real pity. Because the moment Jolie struts down the street in the opening scene, perfecting a ridiculously cutesy Hepburn-esque gait in a swanky dress, the film’s real agenda is confirmed: this is a tongue-in-cheek parody of the first order.
It has to be doesn’t it? After all, there seems to be such a concerted effort on the part of the stars to play up (or play down) their public image, that The Tourist is impossible to take seriously. James Newton Howard’s frothy, bouncy score, combining melody with techno synths, also seems to be distancing itself from notions of 1960s cinematic romance, to which The Tourist apparently owes a debt. Steven Berkoff is even cast as a reptilian gangster, a role that gives his Rambo II villain a run for its money.
In a plot so ridiculous it was probably lifted wholesale from Mission: Impossible, Jolie plays elegant temptress Elise, lover to a criminal who has absconded with hundreds of millions in illicit funds. Paul Bettany and (briefly) Timothy Dalton get the duff roles as the dogged policemen on her trail. When she ensnares Depp’s hapless American Maths teacher on a train to Venice, however, credibility isn’t so much dropped as put into a blender. Depp apparently bears such close physical resemblance to Jolie’s beloved that the authorities and a band of villains come after him but is he being set up as a distraction?
If that synopsis raises an ironic smirk, just wait for the casting. Jolie, clad to the nines in make-up and complete with cut-glass English accent and twinkle in the eye, seems to be mocking the ambiguous, chilly exterior seen in the likes of Salt. Shuffling, shambling Depp by contrast, complete with dodgy face fungus and even dodgier follicles, consciously seems to be downplaying the sense of wackiness we expect from him (although he reportedly did replace Sam Worthington in the part).
Worthington’s departure actually calls into question the ethos of the entire production. Is this a film that was intended as a joke or one that has accidentally transmuted into one and subsequently baffled audiences worldwide? The film’s production difficulties are well documented, with multiple cast and directorial changes (not to mention script re-writes) before Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck came on-board, presumably aiming to bring the class seen in his acclaimed The Lives of Others.
Well the class is certainly there; Venice is shot ravishingly, and the roll-call of glittering hotel rooms and Jolie’s ball gowns are stunning. Everything else, however, seems to lack the integrity he brought to his 2006 Oscar winner. It’s a mocking, ropey, though beautiful-looking effort, where everyone involved seems to have been in on an underlying joke. Or is that something that’s arisen out of a troubled editing process we weren’t privy to? Whatever its original intentions, The Tourist as seen on-screen is a rib-tickling guilty pleasure that provides more solid laughs than many other comedies this year.