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It's the late nineteenth century. Annie Miller, more regularly referred to as Daisy, of Schenectady, New York, is on a grand tour of Europe with her mother, Mrs. Ezra Miller, her precocious adolescent brother, Randolph Miller, and their manservant, Eugenio. It is at their stop in Vevey, Switzerland that Daisy meets Frederick Winterbourne, an American expat studying in Geneva. Frederick has mixed emotions about Daisy. On the one hand, he is captivated by her beauty. On the other, he believes her to be uneducated and improper in her modern American attitude and behavior, she basically doing whatever she wants regardless of the possible perception of impropriety by those in Frederick's social circle. That latter view is shared by Frederick's aunt, Mrs. Costello, with who he is traveling. Conversely, Daisy finds Frederick to be stiff. Regardless, Daisy does allow Frederick to spend time with her as they move from Vevey to Rome, Italy in their individual parallel travels. Through this time... Written by
Ms. Shepherd's fluttery, busy, yet essentially one-note performance undermines an effortful, well-pedigreed adaptation of a seemingly unfilmable work. The screenplay is nimble and witty, the photography lush, the locations dazzling, the supporting cast well-chosen -- how can anyone not respond to Mildred Natwick in anything? But it's all up to the star, and here, she's not up to it. Admittedly, Daisy is a shallow character, but a more thoughtful actress would give her more dimension (today, maybe, Gwyneth Paltrow could do it).
It's irresistible to consider the parallels between real life and reel life: The young Bogdonavich dotes on his leading lady as blindly as Barry Brown's character dotes on Daisy. But the poignancy is tempered somewhat when you consider that this nattering, uninteresting young lady would be absolute hell to live with.
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