Madame X

I went and saw the new movie Charlie Wilson's War this past weekend. A film Variety reviewed as being "that rare Hollywood commodity these days: a smart, sophisticated entertainment for grownups." I wholeheartedly agree. Charlie Wilson's War presented a comfortable balance of history and humor, marked by savvy characters who never fail to deliver a punchline, even if it be at the expense of the American government.

Great performances by Tom Hanks (has he ever done a bad movie?) and Julia Roberts, who charms the camera with a sugar coated Texas drawl. Also entertaining are the four girls who play Wilson's slim, attractive, and busty secretaries, who float in and out of his office like a well oiled machine. And to reinforce his reputation, Hanks' character - a notorious womanizer - affectionately refers to his gaggle of girls as "jailbait."

Something I observed during the film (being the art history nerd I am) was a painting hanging in character Joanne Herring's home. Julia Roberts plays Herring, a Texas socialite and wealthy financier ofpolitical campaigns, including Charlie Wilson's. The painting was a replica of John Singer Sargent's Madame X, identical to the original, with the exception of Julia Robert's profile superimposed upon that of Madame X. I found this amusing, because when this painting debuted, Madame X became somewhat of a scandal in French society. People considered her waist cinching gown and unique pose sexually suggestive, which was only heightened by the contrast of her extremely pale, exposed skin. Sargent was somewhat ostracized in Paris for this painting that people considered inappropriate and arousing, and he even left France for a significant period of time after it was so poorly received.

This was a clever insertion by director Mike Nichols, as character Joanne Herring, embodies a similar sexually suggestive, brazen try-and-stop-me attitude throughout the film, much to the chagrin of political persons who don't support her crusade.

I would definitely recommend this film. And don't forget to lookout for Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts) posing as the scandalous Madame X, for a little dose of art history.

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