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.
It's Christmas 1183, and King Henry II is planning to announce his successor to the throne. The jockeying for the crown, though, is complex. Henry has three sons and wants his boy Prince John to take over. Henry's wife, Queen Eleanor, has other ideas. She believes their son Prince Richard should be king. As the family and various schemers gather for the holiday, each tries to make the indecisive king choose their option. Written by
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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