Jefferson in Paris covers this talented man's years in France (1784-1789) as President Washington's ambassador. The author of the Declaration of Independence seems ill-at-ease in this aristocratic society which is tottering on the brink of chaos. Jefferson looms large in the life of his eldest daughter Patsy (Gwyneth Paltrow) who is miffed when he sends her off to a convent school.

Maria Cosway (Greta Scacchi), a married British-Italian socialite, is attracted to the multitalented American. However, once she declares her love for him, he draws away from her. The real object of his attention is Sally Hemmings (Thandie Newton), a seductive 15-year-old slave from Monticello.

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's screenplay probes the conflict between Jefferson's heart and head not only in his relationship with these women but in his ambivalent views on slavery. Nick Nolte is reserved and charming as Jefferson, a pensive man who actually believed the French Revolution would produce a just society.

This beautiful looking Merchant-Ivory production contains ample pleasures for those who appreciate subtlety and sophistication in their movie fare.