Film review: Object of Beauty, The

Published: Tuesday, May 14 1991 12:00 a.m. MDT

"The Object of Beauty" is a dark, cynical satire that acts as a metaphor for the current recession. Donald Trump, are you watching?

John Malkovich and Andie MacDowell star as a couple used to wealth but not exactly wealthy. They are American high rollers living in a London hotel - a very posh hotel, of course. And under the opening credits we see that Malkovich's Gold Card isn't what it used to be.

With all his money invested in cocoa that is, thanks to a strike, sitting on a dock in the tropics, Malkovich is rapidly losing financial ground. And no wonder. He and MacDowell have no assets - no home, no car . . . they live on room service and travel everywhere by cab.

In fact, aside from their expensive apparel, there seems to be only one real item they own. MacDowell has a very expensive piece of scupture, a small abstract bronze head by Henry Moore, insured for $50,000. And now that they are about $10,000 in debt, with creditors at the door, Malkovich suggests they sell it.

MacDowell, of course, doesn't want to. It was, after all, a gift from her ex-husband (Peter Reigert) - though they are not actually divorced and she and Malkovich are not actually married.

So MacDowell suggests they "steal" it instead, then collect the insurance money. Malkovich isn't sure that's such a good idea.

Meanwhile, a young deaf-mute (Rudi Davies) is reluctantly hired by the hotel manager (Joss Ackland) as a maid. A member of London's poor, she lives in a basement apartment with her punk brother. And one day, while cleaning MacDowell and Malkovich's room, she becomes fascinated by the sculpture.

When it disappears, MacDowell and Malkovich are likely suspects, but so is the maid.

What happens next in terms of plot isn't so important to "The Object of Beauty" as the clever, insightful study in character. This is much more than a simple contrast in rich and poor lifestyles, each equally explored in some depth. More it is about greed and desire - and life in general.

Writer-director Michael Lindsay-Hogg is very perceptive and subtle in his approach and has cast his film very well, including Lolita Davidovich ("Blaze") as MacDowell's best friend.

"The Object of Beauty" is rated R for sex and a nude scene, as well as some profanity and violence.