THE REMAINS OF THE DAY A film review by Lewis Butler Copyright 1993 Lewis Butler
Summary: The latest offering from Merchant/Ivory once again shows what movies should be. A finely crafted story with marvelous performances from all. Hopkins deserves at least a nomination. One of the best films of the year. +3 (-4 to +4)
The only thing I can say in detraction from THE REMAINS OF THE DAY is that the rather stilted style of the film itself, a series of flashbacks, detracts from the overall effect of what must be viewed as a tragic tale. It would be my guess that the film would have been much more powerful had we not began the film with James Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) as an old man, alone. Hopkins performance is a wonder to watch. He plays the stoic butler with such ferocity one can barely resist the urge to vault up and strangle the man. Each trace of emotion is so carefully and wholly hidden that no one in the film has the foggiest notion Mr. Stevens might actually have feelings. The story revolves around Miss Kenton and Mr. Stevens. Miss Kenton is the house-keeper hired for a large English manor, Darlington Hall. Mr. Stevens is the butler, head of the household. Master of all the servants. The ultimate servant. Mr. Stevens and Miss Kenton fall in love, but the requirements of their duty prevent either from acknowledging their feelings. Despite Mr. Steven's one Freudian slip that he would be lost without her, he is never able to admit his feelings. Not for Miss Kenton, not for his father, not even for his employers. When one character tries to talk to Mr. Stevens as a friend, we see a person very uncomfortable with the idea, and unable to relinquish the stoicism of his position.
Emma Thompson is Miss Kenton, and she brings her usual charm to the role. She finds herself in love with Mr. Stevens, but is unable to coax him into any sort of reaction except that of the good and proper servant. Ms. Thompson's performance is exactly what Hopkins needed; it allows Steven's character to be softened just a tad. As the audience we are not so irritated with Stevens that we loose interest in his life, because we see what he means to Miss Kenton.
I'm not sure that it is the best movie of the year, but it is among the best I've seen.
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