"Head in the Clouds" came and went from theaters without as much as a whimper, despite the fact it starred Charlize Theron, coming off her Oscar win, and Penelope Cruz. The reason may be that while it is surprisingly decent, it never comes close to being the epic romance it wanted to be.
Set around the time of World War II, "Head in the Clouds" examines the long and sporadic relationship of an Irish guy named Guy, played by Stuart Townsend, and an American woman named Gilda (Theron). When they met at Cambridge, Guy was a reserved scholar and Theron a sexually adventurous socialite. After one night that convinced Guy she was the love of his life, they reunite several years later in Paris and he moves with in with her and her friend Mia, played by Penelope Cruz. As civil war rages in Spain, both Guy and Mia become more and more concerned about their future, while Gilda seems ignorant to the growing threat around them. When war finally breaks out, their relationships are put to the test.
The problem with "Head in the Clouds" is that the movie wanted too much out of its story. The first half is completely devoted to the relationships and sexual adventures of the three main characters. Okay, that's fine. I have no problem seeing Charlize Theron naked and engaging in various sexual acts. I can't complain about Penelope Cruz, either. And women should find Townsend pretty handsome, too. Still, Gilda comes off as so emotionally cold at times that it is difficult to care about her when the movie suddenly turns into a war film. Her apparent disregard for the war and many of her actions just do not make for a likable character, even if in the end she gets the last laugh.
Okay, so I understand that writer/director John Duigan wanted to have plenty of scenes with Theron doing the nasty. But when halfway through you turn the movie on its head and decide to deliver a war film, that's quite a change of pace. "Head in the Clouds" is never boring, but it's never thrilling, either, and the screenplay and actors don't do much to help. None are bad, but none are great. All three lead actors are enjoyable at times but definitely not as powerful as they should have been.
I must admit that I did like the last twenty minutes or so quite a bit as Duigan actually throws in a twist or two, but the rest of the movie is just okay, and when there are so many good World War II epics out there, it's difficult to see the point of "Head in the Clouds."
If you really like World War II romance movies, you could do a lot worse than "Head in the Clouds," but it clearly isn't as good as it was hoping to be.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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