So, the plot…After finding his wife Kitty’s (Watts) stockings soiled by another man (the underused Schreiber), Dr. Walter Fane (Norton) takes his wife to China where a cholera epidemic has unleashed it’s “painful, messy” self. From here on out, it’s cholera this, cholera that—gee, I wonder if one of our main characters will be infected… But then comes the soap operatic twist: Kitty’s pregnant! Who’s the baby’s daddy? Is it Walter’s? Did it come from the devilishly handsome Charlie Townsend? Perhaps the milkman? Find out next time on Days of Our Lives…
Look, who cares? Between Watts strutting around the nearby orphanage looking bored out of her pretty little head and Norton playing the stiff nobleman, what does the film offer? Veil is a failed tribute and nothing more. But, I suppose to reach some level of fairness, I should note that Watts isn’t too bad here—if only Norton weren’t clutching to her drapes with his devastatingly manufactured performance. Norton is far better when he’s less focused on his accent and more in tune with, well, anything else.
Towards the end of the film, Kitty runs into Charlie in London in a bitter take on the finale in Brief Encounter. The moment almost works, but falls short. We grow to expect that since this is kind of how the whole film runs itself. As much as The Painted Veil aims for a whiff of Hollywood’s heyday, it’s hard to be timeless when the audience is checking their watch every ten minutes.