The Triumph of Love
A beautiful princess goes undercover to try to win over the man she loves and restore him as the rightful heir to the throne.
Mira Sorvino is the beautiful Princess Leonide who falls in love with Agis (Jay Rodan), her sworn enemy. The story goes something like this: the Princess' family killed Agis' parents many years ago and appropriated his throne, which the Princess inherited. Worried for Agis' safety, the philosopher Hermocrates (Ben Kingsley) and his spinster sister Leontine (Fiona Shaw) took the tyke in and raised him in obscurity. Hermocrates has taught Agis to despise women--the Princess in particular (the handsome Agis even practices his archery skills on a wooden cutout of her). One day, the Princess sees Agis romping around naked in the woods, which apparently is enough to make her fall in love with him. Off she goes to his estate, dressed up like a man and posing as a student of philosophy interested in Hermocrates' work in hopes of getting invited for a sojourn at their estate. But in order to get close to Agis, she must first get into his surrogate family's good graces. What transpires is a hilarious comedy of errors as the Princess (and her new identity as Phocion) gets engaged to both Hermocrates and Leontine while she is hot on Agis' trail.
At first glance, I thought Mira Sorvino (Wisegirls) was not entirely well cast as Princess Leonide because of her clumsy image but by the end of the film, she had grown on me in this regal part. She is able to play both sexes quite convincingly thanks in large part to how 18th century men dressed: frilly shirts, leggings, hose and periwigs. Jay Rodan (The Caveman's Valentine) plays the sheltered Prince Agis, and although he did a reasonable job, it isn't memorable. Perhaps it's the lack of chemistry between Rodan and Sorvino, but it seems as though any actor could have filled those princely shoes. As Leontine, Fiona Shaw (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) is a little over-the-top with the old maid routine but still well suited for the role of the mad scientist type. The most impressive cast member is Ben Kingsley (Sexy Beast) in the role of Hermocrates. He encompasses the role of wise savant with a certain goofiness that makes his character secretly warm and charming.
The Triumph of Love is an adaptation of Pierre Marivaux's 1732 comedy by the same name. Because of the physical comedy needed to pull off this genre, the film often walks a fine line between being expressive and cartoonish: the way Sorvino bows, for example, or how Shaw reacts to a declaration of love. However the story, which starts off as flighty scheme that could actually never work, takes an almost dark turn when Princess Leonide's plan begins to unravel, bringing the film to a both tragic and comical ending. Director Clare Peploe adds the right artful touch with impressive costumes and authentic sets, but spends a little too much time building the story and not enough on the film's outcome. There is also an interesting bit at the end when the characters hold hands, take a bow and break out into song, serving as a clever reminder that the film was originally set for the stage.
The Triumph of Love lags a little as the story builds in anticipation of what's to come, but the denouement and performances make it worthwhile.