Considering the talent, not much is engaged and we're left with just motions. And while its a nice change, it seems like a bit of a stretch for the then-33y/o Joan Fontaine to play a young schemy female. But it isn't a total disaster, its watchable and quite entertaining.
Joan Fontaine as Christabel is a kind of cypher device, who merely reveals the latent discontents of wealthy but dysfunctional Americans in an age of material prosperity; the real value and interest in the film comes from Ferrer's waspish painter and the great Robert Ryan's macho writer. The value of her portrait doubles at the end of the film, but her character remains as enigmatic and remote as her painted image.
Nicholas Ray directed this mostly compelling melodrama. It's hokey and over the top at times, with its quirky one-liners and swelling music score - but there are some strong old-fashioned performances and an engrossing story and characters. Unfortunately, it does loose steam in the last act which makes it drag on a bit too long. Entertaining, but not quite memorable enough to be a classic.