See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Head in the Clouds

Posted By on Wed, Oct 20, 2004 at 12:00 AM

Writer and director John Duigan’s Head in the Clouds reads like an old-time war movie kinked up for modern sensibilities. We’re talking S&M, getting down and dirty on top of a pool table, threesomes, girl-on-girl action and a topless Charlize Theron in a bathtub.

Throw in a bitch slap and a confessional and you’d have an average episode of the Real World. But, like a cold shower, Head in the Cloud’s serious side washes away the sizzle. The agonizingly slow pace of the World War II love story with its hefty and arduous plot will make you wish for a bunch of snotty coeds and a hot tub.

Theron is Gilda Besse, a hedonistic heiress with no interest in the tumultuous world beyond her boudoir. Estranged from her American mother and feuding with her French father, Gilda has no allegiance to family or state, and instead floats among lovers and fleeting passions such as acting, writing and art.

In 1933 Cambridge, she stumbles into the arms of Guy (Theron’s real-life beau Stuart Townsend), an Irish-born student who aspires to better the world. Guy is taken with Gilda, who is way out of his league. The two hook up, but Gilda quickly flutters off to find new amusements.

The two are reunited years later in Paris, where Gilda is living with her roommate and lover, Mia (Penelope Cruz). Politically persecuted in Spain, Mia is a former burlesque dancer training to become a nurse so she can return to Spain and fight against fascism.

The three grow closer; the world gets more complicated as does the trio’s relationship. We get to see Germany’s occupation of France, Guy’s return to Paris as a spy and Gilda’s shacking up with a Nazi general. Finally, the movie hits its stride.

There is a heck of a lot of windup to get to the story, but Head in the Clouds offers enough eye candy to make the experience palatable. The movie is beautifully photographed; Cruz and Theron are stunning as 1930s babes; and the scenes meant to seduce truly steam up the screen.

Showing at the Main Art Theater (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-263-2111.

Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

More by Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 14, 2020

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit