Having been confined to the Charanton Insane Asylum The Marquis de Sade (Geoffrey Rush) manages to lead a better life than others as he befriends Abbe de Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix) who is in charge of the asylum. He also befriends Madeleine (Kate Winslet), a young maid, who intrigued by the Marquis secretly assists him in sneaking out his writing which continues to be published. The Marquis perverse literature does not go unnoticed and Emperor Napoleon sends in Dr. Royer-Collard (Michael Caine), a man with skills in torture, to try and bring an end to the Marquis writings.
I've mentioned it before but sometimes I watch a movie just because I have a copy rather than out of any desire and as I have said before sometimes it opens up a whole new world of cinema which had I not watched I would never have bothered with. That brings me to "Quills" a movie whose cast was reasonably attractive yet had a storyline which before watching had no appeal what so ever and as such watched with an open mind in the hope of being surprised, impressed and entertained. Sadly I wasn't and found myself sitting through a competently made but not engrossing enough movie.
Now in fairness my knowledge of The Marquis de Sade prior to watching "Quills" could have fitted on the back of a postage stamp with room to spare but after the movie was over I don't feel like I learned that much more. I say that because "Quills" has that feel of a movie which has been written with entertainment in mind rather than straight dramatization as not only do we have the variety of kooks in the Asylum but a whole array of over the top characters seemingly designed to amuse. In fact at times with Kate Winslet starring as the busty and frequently heavy breathing Madeleine I couldn't get out of my head an episode of "The Big Bang Theory" where the boys visited a Renaissance Fair and Howard mentions women lacing their corsets so tight their bosom jumps out and says "howdy".
Maybe for those with a greater interest of the Marquis de Sade and his writings will find "Quills" much more entertaining and interesting, maybe they will find it insultingly inaccurate as I have no idea but I just found it less than involving for someone who watches with no prior knowledge. In fact for those like me with no prior knowledge it comes down to the performances and they are frankly incredibly hit n miss. Geoffrey Rush almost comes across in some scenes as if he is in a "Carry on" movie whilst Joaquin Phoenix fails to dominate his character in scenes like I expected he should. But then whilst underused Kate Winslet is more convincing and Michael Caine does a good job of making Royer-Collard a sadistic man.
What this all boils down to is that "Quills" just didn't do it for me and it almost seemed unsure of what it wanted to be as it went from surreal to comedy to dramatic. As I said maybe those with a greater interest and knowledge in The Marquis de Sade will find it more interesting but for the casual movie fan it doesn't quite work.