Norman is a curmudgeon with an estranged relationship with his daughter Chelsea. At Golden Pond, he and his wife nevertheless agree to care for Billy, the son of Chelsea's new boyfriend, and a most unexpected relationship blooms.
Christmas 1183--an aging and conniving King Henry II plans a reunion where he hopes to name his successor. He summons the following people for the holiday: his scheming but imprisoned wife, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine; his mistress, Princess Alais, whom he wishes to marry; his three sons (Richard, Geoffrey, and John), all of whom desire the throne; and the young but crafty King Philip of France (who is also Alais' brother). With the fate of Henry's empire at stake, everybody engages in their own brand of deception and treachery to stake their claim. Written by
4 of the 5 male leads would go on to play kings/rulers in other movies: Peter O'Toole (Henry II): Priam in "Troy"; Nigel Terry (John): King Arthur in "Excalibur"; Anthony Hopkins (Richard): Odin in "Thor 1 & 2"; Timothy Dalton (Philip I): Prince/King Barin in "Flash Gordon". See more »
Eleanor refers to syphilis in 1183, although the first recorded outbreak was in 1494. The term 'syphilis' wasn't coined until 1530. See more »
The great film critic, Pauline Kael, chastised Hepburn in this film version of James Goldman's historical cat fight for exploiting the audience's emotional connection to her; for playing on her frailty. Further proof, that artistry is in the eye of the beholder. Ironically, years later, Hepburn, according to biographer Scott Berg, would criticize Meryl Streep for being too mannered. Of course, neither are the worse for the wear. Hepburn actually emerges triumphant in her portrayal of Eleonor of Acquitane and not least of which because we know the woman behind the artist; and know her to be a royal survivor in her own right.
Other criticism that has dogged this work is that James Goldman's dark satire is muddied by the layer of emotion and even sentiment that the movie develops. But as with the film version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the enhanced emotional core of the story is a strong plus. To this end John Barry's forceful score lends great credibility as does Anthony Harvey's non stop strategic direction. Casting this powerful, writing this intelligent in the hands of a smart director makes this Lion unsurpassable to a stage production and certainly the unfortunate recent remake.
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