Reversal of Fortune

I was annoyed that Kevin Costner didn't sweep the board at the Oscars for Dances with Wolves; he should have won best actor as well, I thought. But having since seen Reversal of Fortune I've changed my mind: Jeremy Irons thoroughly deserved the award for his brilliant portrayal of Claus von Bulow.

This film, as you've probably read by now, is a true story. It's the story of the fight to clear von Bulow of his conviction for the attempted murder of his wealthy wife Sunny (Glenn Close, giving a fine performance as a prescription-junkie), who to this day is still comatose.

Someone reviewed Reversal in Woroni last semester and, to my amazement, canned it. I can only assume that he or she just didn't get it. Reversal of Fortune is not just an "attempted-murder mystery": it's a brilliant indictment of the "lifestyles of the rich and famous", and it's very very funny into the bargain. I can, however, understand someone "not getting it," because in some ways that was the obstacle von Bulow faced: he was a rich Englishman, and the middle-class Americans passing judgement upon him just couldn't figure him out. Even his defence lawyers couldn't (there's a beautiful scene where von Bulow tells them bad-taste "Claus jokes" over dinner, which goes over like the proverbial lead balloon). And perhaps you won't be able to either, thanks to Irons's great job of keeping Claus enigmatic right to the end. If you don't laugh at the final scene, though, there's no helping you, I'm sorry.

The film doesn't presume to give "the full story"; a number of possible solutions to the mystery of Sunny's "accident" are presented. Anything else, though, would have been presumptuous (only Sunny and Claus—and perhaps even only Sunny—know what really happened). As it is, Reversal of Fortune is witty, stylish, mysterious, and great entertainment. Ignore all other reviews, this is the genuine article: go and see Reversal of Fortune.


First published in a reviews booklet of the ANU Film Group.
This page: 31 January 2000; last modified 16 February 2001.

©1991, 2000 Rory Ewins