A Business Affair (1994)

“I like to go all the way on the first date.”

In the romantic comedy film, A Business Affair floor model (French actress Carole Bouquet) is married to temperamental, egotistical author, Alec Bolton (Jonathan Pryce). Alec signs a new book contract with brash, flashy American publisher Vanni Corso (Christopher Walken). Corso has his avaricious sights on taking Bolton, a significant figure on the British literary scene, to the lucrative American market. Corso also has designs on Alec’s neglected, beautiful wife. When Kate writes a novel, Alec is appalled. He thinks there’s only room for one writer in the household–him–and he sees Kate’s efforts as trying to use his fame to fan her own career. Corso, on the other hand, sees Kate’s novel as a way to lever a place in between the couple. As Alec continues to criticize and squash Kate’s hopes, the power structure in the household is in a state of flux, and the married couple grow increasingly more distant.

The prospect of the Bolton’s failing marriage sounds quite abysmal, but the hilarious script and great characterizations create some laugh-out-loud scenes set against the backdrop of the literary set in London. Kate is in the middle of a love triangle pulled by one man who wants to squash her career, and another who’s promising to promote it. Alec peevishly demands that Kate should abandon writing and concentrate on him instead. He fails to understand Kate and whines “isn’t it sufficient to be nurturing the crucible of genius?” Alec is an intellectual, and he doesn’t possess the characteristics to counterbalance Corso’s animal magnetism. Soon Kate is getting all the attention and romance from Corso that she doesn’t get at home. Corso woos Kate without mercy. Christopher Walken’s talent for the comic role shines in his brilliantly funny performance of Corso. Walken truly makes the film.

As a general rule, I don’t enjoy romantic comedies. They’re just too sticky sweet for my tastes. A Business Affair however, contains appealing bittersweet truisms that counteract any tendency towards giddy romance. The film, for example, shows how married life is often not conducive to appreciation of one’s partner, and also argues that women should never allow themselves to be defined by the men in their lives. Kate frequently uses the phrase that she wants to be ‘a normal woman’ without realizing that she is allowing both Alec and Corso to define who she is and what she can do. Kate must define herself and only then will she be happy. A Business Affair is well-acted and entertaining, and even non-romantics (like me) should enjoy it. From director Charlotte Brandstrom.

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