If Russell Crowe bothers to read reviews, he’ll be stung by some of the critical pans in the US for The Water Diviner, which opened there last Friday via Warner Bros.
And he’ll be disappointed with the lack of interest from mainstream moviegoers. Playing at 320 locations including 70 IMAX screens, the drama fetched an estimated $US1.25 million in its first three days for a lowly per screen average of $3,906.
Many critics faulted Crowe’s feature directing debut and ridiculed the romance between his character and Olga Kurylenko’s gorgeous Turkish widow.
The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis opined, “For The Water Diviner, his muddled directorial debut about love in the time of war and dissemblance, Russell Crowe wanted to go full David Lean while nodding at Peter Weir’s Gallipoli.
“Mr. Crowe has signed onto a preposterous, would-be sweeping historical romance that’s far too slight and silly to carry the weight of real history."
Time magazine’s Daniel D’Addario was equalling scathing, declaring, “Directing himself, Crowe falls into all of his worst habits as an actor, letting his voice fall low and gravelly in an attempt to telegraph big emotions. Crowe needs, badly, a director to push back against his default mode: The script for The Water Diviner posits that Joshua Connor is the most interesting man in the frame at all times, but Crowe’s performance doesn’t earn that.”
The Los Angeles Times’ Mark Olsen said, “It's an unsurprisingly ambitious movie from the notoriously, proudly headstrong Crowe, which makes it such a disappointment that it feels so blandly earnest and unexpectedly hesitant, with none of the unnerving conviction the actor often brings even to lightweight promotional appearances.”
To be fair, the film has its admirers. Rolling Stone’s Pete Travers observed, “Crowe strives to strike a universal chord about the futility of war. Simplistic? Maybe. But in crafting a film about the pain a parent feels after losing a child in battle, Crowe transcends borders and politics. It's not war being honoured here, it's sacrifice and inconsolable loss. I'd call that a substantial achievement.”
Similarly, Deadline’s Pete Hammond enthused, “The Water Diviner, a sweeping, humane and riveting tale that reminds you of the big and bold movies of the past that we loved. Or at least I loved before Hollywood discovered gold in them thar comic books. … Crowe has delivered a real crowd pleaser that I think for him is a triumph in every way, particularly as a first-time director of a large- scale movie.”
Crowe can feel vindication from the film’s success in Australia ($I5.8 million) and Turkey ($US5.7 million). However he’d have been hoping for better results in the UK (US$1.5 million, according to Box Office Mojo) and France where, blandly retitled The Promise of Life, it took $307,000 in its first week on 142 screens.
And he'll have been cheered that nearly 1.4 million Aussies watched the movie on the Seven Network last week, and that Universal Sony Pictures Home Entertainment sold more than 100,000 DVDs and Blu-rays.