The Woman in the Fifth
When sifting through streaming options you have the wonderful possibility of stumbling upon a small but proper movie, with names you recognize, that you’ve never heard of, and then your finger hovers over the mouse… click on The Woman in the Fifth?
Let’s see, it stars Ethan Hawke, not a draw for me outside of his Linklater films, but hey, also Kristen Scott Thomas, a solid favorite of mine since she romanced Prince in Under the Cherry Moon. Plus, anything set in Paris always gets me. I’ve been a sucker for that city since seeing Diva while in high school. Certainly giving it fifteen minutes to draw me in is not a big ask. I mean, it lives on my laptop and it’s free, so hardly an effort.
I’m glad I did. This lean, moody, confident 2011 film from director Paweł Pawlikowski (Cold War, My Summer of Love) kept me intrigued throughout. I think I know what went down, but the questions that linger are not going to haunt me. This movie is not big enough for that, but it is entertaining.
The Woman in the Fifth starring a hot mess Ethan Hawke
Ethan Hawke, low-key, bespectacled and a bit rumpled, plays Tom Ricks, a divorced American novelist just arrived in Paris to see his young daughter, which is not okay with his ex-wife. Things aren’t great for Tom and we see him navigate a bit of Paris well off any tourist map.
Hawke is captivating here – I was quickly invested in his story. Perhaps I need to delete the 90s Reality Bites emo Hawke from my mental hard drive and get more on board with his recent acting. He is one of those performers that is getting better as he sheds the arguably fantastic looks of his breakthrough years (see: Rob Lowe). A bit of wrinkles suit him, and this character wouldn’t work with a younger actor.
At a tedious literary evening, Tom Ricks spots, just for a second, a beautiful woman, the exquisite Margit (Kristin Scott Thomas). She is the titular lady, who lives in Paris’ Fifth arrondissement. Unstable Tom is drawn to her, and why not? Scott Thomas is excellent, smart and strong, and Margit’s initial interactions with this fish out of water American are cinema alpha female par excellence. We all should be so confident. But what is this relationship?
Tom’s story unfolds slowly, strangely. Pawlikowski creates a small world, with only a few other, but very important, characters. The Woman in the Fifth is grounded in harsh reality but constantly intriguing. I will say no more as you should find this little film and dive in yourself. Tell me what you make of it in the comments below. Will you be on the side of this very flawed hero?
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A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.