In this version of Henry James' novella "Daisy Miller", a young, bright and bubbly 19th Century American girl on her Grand Tour of Europe meets a fellow American, Frederick Winterbourne. Winterbourne is shocked by Daisy's modern behavior toward life, and spends his time with her trying to figure out if she's having innocent fun or on the path to becoming a fallen woman. Along the way, Winterbourne's judgment is helped and hindered by the other people in Daisy's life. Is Daisy really naive or naughty? Written by
Rebecca J. Burke
sumptuous scenery, good performances, faithful to the original story
Many reviewers here seem to have confused the story and characters with the film and the actors.
Yes, Daisy in the film is rather flat and monotonous. But that's a high compliment -- that the ravishing Cybill Shepherd could so accurately portray such a flat character. Henry James at one point describes Daisy's expression as a "light, slightly monotonous smile", in another her voice as a "little soft, flat monotone". He says late in the story that "there was always, in her conversation, the same odd mixture of audacity and puerility". No, she wouldn't be a very pleasant person to be around for long. But that was part of James's point: that our attraction to people (especially those of the opposite sex) often defies reason. Shepard makes the point well.
Some have commented that they wished the story had been filled out. Some of those apparently haven't read the story. One of those critics even places the story wrong by forty years. Though called a novella, it's barely more than a short story. In fact the film does a remarkable job of portraying the events and (more importantly) the characters very much as they are in the story. The great majority of the dialog in the film is verbatim from the story.
In some instances, the scenes and characters were significantly expanded from the James story. How far should a director go, if the aim is to film a classic story, not just to make something derived from that story? James's characters were pretty flat, a lot flatter than those in the film. One could justifiably criticize the film for telling the story far better than James did.
Do you think James's story is dated and flat in the modern world? Well, in many ways so do I. A polemical assault on discrimination based on manners and birth is truly dated. Yet an assault on personal discrimination remains fully current. The modern world is certainly not devoid of personal discrimination. Perhaps it's not often so ugly, not in the first world anyway, but prejudice is very much alive.
James's story is also unsubtle: two groups of people with differing views, one person caught with one foot in each camp, unhappy results. That's about it. Should one film the classic story, or build something different? It's a choice; great films have been made both ways. The choice for this film was unambiguous: to film the classic story.
The photography is truly gorgeous -- the film (at least the outdoor parts) was shot on location in Vevey, Switzerland and Rome, Italy. Despite the long stretches of dialog, including Daisy's run-on commentaries, one need not strain to understand the words. If the story were as good as the production and acting (several good performances) then this would be a 10. The faithfulness to the original weights it down.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful.
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