The best efforts of several acclaimed British actors can't turn this sow's ear of a period piece into a silk purse. 18th-century, nouveau riche landowner Thomas Smithers (Peter Postlethwaite) resolves to leave his mark on posterity with a monumental garden, similar to those in vogue at court. Perhaps undertaking this daunting project will take his mind off his flighty wife, Juliana (Greta Scacchi), and dotty daughter, Thea (Carmen Chaplin). What Smithers doesn't comprehend is that an enemy is determining the ultimate cost of this grand folly: Believing he's hired a renowned Dutch landscaper, Smithers gives carte blanche to an impostor introduced to him as Meneer Chrome (Ewan McGregor). In reality, his wife's louche cousin, James Fitzmaurice (Richard E. Grant), has substituted an impostor for the real Meneer and blackmails the fake Meneer into complicity with his plan to drive Smithers into bankruptcy. With Smithers ruined, Fitzmaurice will be able to marry Juliana. The imitation Dutchman slyly cajoles Smithers into financing a greenhouse, even though the cost of glass is prohibitive, and as costs skyrocket and elegant pruning reshapes the wilderness, Fitzmaurice keeps a gimlet eye on his coquettish love interest, who keeps ogling the strapping garden designer. Although Fitzmaurice's puppet tows the line, the substitute gardener falls in love with Thea, who detests the denuding of her beloved forest. Nature strikes back, when excessive tree cutting enables a windstorm to destroy the garden. Basking in Smithers' ruination, Fitzmaurice plans to avoid paying his ersatz garden-designer by poisoning him. Will Smithers to spot Fitzmaurice's hand in this treachery and save part of his fortune? This leaden costume drama focuses too much on penny-dreadful villainy and milky white bosoms; even well rounded breasts can't compensate for flat dialogue. The older cast members are stymied by slack editing and by the distorted performances of Chaplin and McGregor.
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- Released: 1997
- Rating: R
- Review: The best efforts of several acclaimed British actors can't turn this sow's ear of a period piece into a silk purse. 18th-century, nouveau riche landowner Thomas Smithers (Peter Postlethwaite) resolves to leave his mark on posterity with a monumental garden… (more)