Since getting divorced, Baroness Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, previously Baroness Dudevant, the successful and notorious writer of sensational romance novels now living under the pseudonym George Sand, in Paris, has been in the habit of dressing like a man. In her romantic pursuit of the sensitive Chopin, whose music she fell in love with before seeing him in person, George/Aurora is advised that she must act like a man pursuing a woman, though she is also advised to avoid damaging his health by not pursuing him at all. With this advice Sand is deterred by a fellow countrywoman who pretends to be smitten with Chopin, the mistress of Franz Liszt, the Countess Marie d'Agoult. Whether the Countess is really in love with Chopin is unlikely; she seeks only to prevent a relationship between Chopin and Sand.
Sand meets Chopin in the French countryside at the house of the Duchess d'Antan, a foolish aspiring socialite who invites artists from Paris to her salon in order to feel cosmopolitan. Sand invites herself, not knowing that several of her former lovers are also in attendance. A small play is written by Alfred de Musset satirizing the aristocracy, Chopin protests at his lack of manners, de Musset bellows and a fireplace explosion ensues.
Chopin is briefly swayed by a beautifully written love letter ostensibly from d'Agoult, a letter actually written by, and stolen from, Sand. Eventually Sand wins over Chopin when she proves that she wrote the letter, reciting its words to him passionately, and after buying a copy of her memoir he finds the text of the letter in the book.
Chopin is then challenged to a duel by one of Sand's ex-lovers. He faints during the face-off. Sand finishes the duel for him and nurses him back to health in the countryside, solidifying their relationship.
Near the end of the movie, Sand and Chopin dedicate a volume of music to the countess, although this only suggests that she has had an affair with Chopin, causing a falling-out with her lover Liszt. Sand and Chopin depart for Majorca, relieved to escape the competitive nature of artistic alliances and jealousies in Paris.Judy Davis as George Sand (Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin)
Hugh Grant as Frédéric Chopin
Mandy Patinkin as Alfred de Musset
Bernadette Peters as Marie Catherine Sophie, Comtesse d'Agoult
Julian Sands as Franz Liszt
Ralph Brown as Eugène Delacroix
Georges Corraface as Felicien Mallefille
Anton Rodgers as Duke d'Antan
Emma Thompson as Duchess d'Antan
Anna Massey as Sophie-Victorie Delaborde, George Sand's Mother
The film's supporting performances include David Birkin as Maurice, John Savident as Buloz, Lucy Speed as Young Aurora, and Elizabeth Spriggs as Baroness Laginsky.
Sarah Kernochan, director James Lapine's wife, had written the film in 1988 during a lay-off due to 1988 Writers Guild of America strike. Kernochan explained the film: "How do complicated people find a simple way of loving?" The producer Stuart Oken liked the project; his concern was to give Lapine "a chance to realize his vision and become a movie director." Oken brought the project to his friend and fellow producer, Dan Sherkow, who secured financing and distribution for the picture.
For the cast, Lapine wanted "to use people he had worked with before." He cast actors who "didn't look like, but embodied the characters." Judy Davis and Mandy Patinkin could "hardly look more unlike the cultural icons they portray." Lapine hired a piano coach and a music consultant to advise both Grant and Sands on various piano techniques.
Due to Common Market legalities, the film was incorporated as a British production with co-production by Ariane Films, a French company and distribution by a United States company Sovereign Films. The budget was $6 million.
Chopin:Impromptu No. 1 in A-flat major (Op. 29)
Ballade No. 1 in G minor (Op. 23)
Polonaise in A major "Military" (Op. 40, No.1)
Etude in E minor "Wrong Note" (Op. 25, No. 5)
Prelude in G-sharp minor (Op. 28, No. 12)
Prelude in D-flat major "Raindrop" (Op. 28, No. 15)
Etude in G-flat major "Butterfly" (Op. 25, No. 9)
Nouvelle Etude No. 1 in F minor
Etude in C-sharp minor (Op. 10, No. 4)
Waltz in D-flat major "Minute" (Op. 64, No. 1)
Fantasy-Impromptu in C-sharp minor (Op. 66)
Nocturne in F major (Op. 15, No. 1)
Etude in A-flat major "Aeolian Harp" (Op. 25, No. 1)
Liszt:Apres d'une lecture de Dante (from Années de Pèlerinage, 2nd year)
Transcendental Etude No. 4 "Mazeppa"
Grand galop chromatique
Beethoven:Symphony No.6 in F major "Pastoral"
Impromptu was released on 12 April 1991 in the United Kingdom. It was later broadcast on PBS's Masterpiece Theatre in 1993.
Impromptu has received mixed to favorable reviews. According to the review aggregator website, Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 75% approval rating and an average score of 5.9/10 based on 16 reviews. Jeff Millar of the Houston Chronicle wrote that the film is "a zingy, impudent little essay on gender, with the exquisitely confusing George Sand at its center." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film 3/4 stars, writing, "The film has little serious interest in George Sand, and almost none in the novels that are all that remain of her, but diverts itself with scandal, atmosphere, location, and witty repartee."
Janet Maslin of The New York Times gave the film a positive review, likening it to the films of Ken Russell. Speaking of director James Lapine's approach, Maslin said, "Handling this material playfully, he tosses together the film's artistic luminaries and allows them to indulge in outrageous antics, like the scene that finds Sand pleading for Chopin's affections and telling him she needs only a minute of his time to explain her feelings." The New Yorker reviewer wrote that the film was "an ebullient and absurdly entertaining account of the famous love affair of George Sand and Frédéric Chopin. ...The historical figures in this movie are cartoons, but they’re cartoons with recognizable human qualities, and the actors look as if they were having a wonderful time charging around in their period costumes. Hugh Grant’s Chopin is a brilliant caricature of the Romantic ideal of the artist; he gives the character an air of befuddled unworldliness, and punctuates his readings with delicately timed tubercular coughs. Judy Davis plays Sand—a great actress in a great role."