Lovely to look at and packed with some solid doses of charm and wit -- but sorely lacking in historical accuracy and romantic chemistry -- Gillian Armstrong's Death Defying Acts tells the story of a brief but (mildly) interesting relationship between Harry Houdini and a beautiful con woman in the summer of 1914. How much of the film is actually factual I have no idea, but I do know that Harry Houdini looked more like Gene Wilder than Guy Pearce, but hey ... this is full-bore Hollywood fantasy all the way. Only some of the names are unchanged to keep you interested.
So, fine: Guy Pearce as Harry Houdini. I'll bite. And the guy delivers a fine and firmly affable performance; I just never really bought him as THE Harry Houdini. As the single mother with a flair for fake fortune-telling, Catherine Zeta-Jones is just as lovely as ever. Her character isn't given too many shades to work with beside "sneaky" and "doe-eyed," but the gal oozes old-school movie-star vibes whenever she walks across the screen. And young Saoirse Ronan makes for a plucky little sidekick / daughter, just in case you happen to bring your kids to the movie.