Mixed or average reviews - based on 22 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 22
  2. Negative: 4 out of 22
  1. 50
    The movie tells no clear story and has no clear ideas.
  2. 75
    Regardless, though it may be occasionally slow-moving and perhaps a half-hour too long, this film is put together with care and a mindfulness of quality.
  3. 50
    The team of producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory and writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala drops the ball with this droopy, snail-paced prigs-in-wigs movie.
  4. Bereft of any flesh-and-blood honesty, the last half of the movie plays like a ludicrous PBS version of "Mandingo."
  5. Slow, beautifully filmed, Nolte's Jefferson implausible.
  6. A wax-museum movie that is both bland and reverential despite its focus on the great man's love life, Jefferson is hampered by its disconnected protagonist.
  7. By the time [James Ivory and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala] get around to articulating a story, the inhibitions imposed by their "good taste" begin to seem more like gutlessness, and what initially promises to be an exposure of American liberal doublethink about slavery winds up as a querulous wimp out on a subject that the underrated "Mandingo" is better equipped to deal with.
  8. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    This decorous look at the great man's five years as ambassador to France in the period leading up to the French Revolution touches upon much significant history, incident and emotion but, ironically, lacks the intrigue and drama of great fiction.
  9. Jefferson in Paris isn't merely wooden; it's concrete. Nor is it simply bad; the thing is astonishingly bad. Sure looks pretty though. [08 Apr 1995]
  10. It is long, mediocre and rather pointless. [07 Apr 1995]
  11. Reviewed by: Jay Carr
    But despite the vibrancy of its images and the exquisiteness of its craftsmanship, Jefferson in Paris doesn't often light a fire under its material. [07 Apr 1995]
  12. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    It's as if everyone was just a little too much in tasteful awe of its subject, who is played rather stolidly by Nick Nolte.
  13. Jefferson in Paris is dull, sluggish and unfocused.
  14. Overshadowed by its own ambition and not-quite-ironic pageantry, Jefferson in Paris doesn't quite come to life.
  15. This movie would have had a chance of being interesting had it been about Sally Hemmings.
  16. 30
    So what exactly is the point? Does Jefferson's treatment of Sally Hemings establish his racism or his instinctive color-blindness? Unfortunately, the picture is so unfocused and tumbles so rapidly from one event to another that it's difficult to tell.
  17. But, as with any other Merchant Ivory film, this one provides pleasures beyond the ordinary. [07 Apr 1995]
  18. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    Jefferson in Paris is a rich confection indeed, filled with tidbits about fashion, customs, art, and commerce in 18th-century France and America. But like a meal consisting of nothing but petits-fours, this lavish biopic is too much dessert and not enough main course.
  19. Reviewed by: Phillip Thomas
    Sadly, beyond the wigs, costumes and exquisite set design, its a vacant enterprise.
  20. Reviewed by: Tim Appelo
    The bad news is that Jefferson is inept and inert. [21 Apr 1995]
  21. Reviewed by: Amy Gamerman
    It's beautiful to watch, but it doesn't cover very much ground. Sumptuously appointed, meticulously detailed, the film sallies forth - and sags. [06 Apr 1995]
  22. Reviewed by: Eve Zibart
    Jefferson in Paris is nevertheless a disaster, intellectually infuriating and thoughtlessly racist.

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