Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Sam Neill, Meg Ryan
Opened: January 26, 1996
"Restoration" is visually poetic. Using such signs of the times as gilded foggers swinging from palace ceilings (a guard against plague) to provide a smoky atmosphere and the 1666 fire of London as a metaphor for a personal hell, the film's very light in a dark theater can hold an audience for the two hours plus running time.
But as beautiful as it looks and as well acted as it is, with a captivating performance by Robert Downey, Jr. and Sam Neill as a reserved and regal king, this story of a court doctor with too much zest for his own good tries too hard be grand and sweeping -- which is where it fails.
The film follows only a very few years in the good doctor's life, but in those years he goes from medical school to administering medicine in a hospital for the poor to being to doctor of the king's court, falling in love with a royal mistress he is charged with protecting and consequently being booted back to poverty.
He stays with a clergy friend and falls in love (again) with a mental patient (Meg Ryan, finally getting the chance to be something other than cute) who has his child and soon after dies. He again treats the king's mistress while in cognito while London burns....enough already.
Somewhere in this potentially fascinating story of a man's life, the director caught epic fever and his characters got buried in breadth and depth of his ambition.
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