6.3/10
1,484
13 user 12 critic

The Bostonians (1984)

Not Rated | | Drama, Romance | 5 October 1984 (UK)
A Boston feminist and a conservative Southern lawyer contend for the heart and mind of a beautiful and bright girl unsure of her future.

Director:

Writers:

(novel), (screenplay)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 5 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
Madeleine Potter ...
...
Mrs. Burrage
...
Dr. Tarrant
Barbara Bryne ...
...
Dr. Prance
Charles McCaughan ...
Music Hall Policeman
Nancy New ...
Adeline
...
Henry Burrage (as John Van Ness Philip)
...
Mr. Pardon
Peter Bogyo ...
Mr. Gracie
Martha Farrar ...
Mrs, Farrinder
Dusty Maxwell ...
Newton Tarrant
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Storyline

19th-century Boston woman dedicated to the suffrage movement, meets a faith healer's daughter, a Mississippi lawyer also has eyes for the young woman. Written by Joyce Kavitsky <Kavitsky@erols.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A BEAUTIFUL FILM . . . An intimate and exquisite probe of the feminist heart. [Australia Theatrical]

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

|

Language:

Release Date:

5 October 1984 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

A bostoniak  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

During filming, actress Madeleine Potter noticed that one of her costumes had the name "Nastassja Kinski" sewn into it. As it turned out, the dress had originally been made to be used in the movie Tess (1979). See more »

Goofs

After a title card has advised us we are in New York City in l876, Olive Chancellor writes a check for Mr. Tarrant, dated Septmber 13, 1875. See more »

Quotes

Dr. Prance: It's a pity you can't say "damn".
Olive Chancellor: Yes.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Dawson's Creek: The Bostonians (2001) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Abysmal on all counts
6 January 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

With an uncompromising dedication to character, and a flair for graceful, richly-textured storytelling, Merchant-Ivory seemed incapable of mediocrity. And with the recent passing of Ismail Merchant, I've been thumbing through the company's stellar filmography with renewed appreciation. Adoring the costume drama, I donned my comfy slippers and International Coffee and settled into 120 minutes of Merchant-Ivory bliss.

What I got instead was The Bostonians, the MI treatment of Henry James' witty and satirical novel about the earliest days of the feminist movement. This production took a fun and biting social commentary and turned it into gooey melodrama. It failed to show the irony of a headstrong young feminist (daughter of a "mesmeric healer" and a chronic hypochondriac) allowing herself to be manipulated on all sides while falling for a dull, misogynistic Southern lawyer. It turned the classic Plutonic relationship with her feminist mentor into the clawing desperation of an aging lesbian. Script appeal seesawed between eating a mouthful of alum, and blowing butterscotch pudding out one's nose. Editing was at once jagged and lumpy, spending copious amounts of film on innocuous bits of business, only to slam the guillotine so close to some dialog that it made me wonder about my DVD player. And that's only the half of it.

Stiff and lumbering is all I ever expect of the now canonized Christopher Reeve, so this performance shouldn't have surprised me. But it did. Reeve was channeling some kind of Confederate Heathcliff with a little Mary Shelley thrown in for good measure. Reading his lines from crib notes apparently taped to the bottom of the camera lens, he never blinked nor gave the slightest indication of understanding his dialog. He seemed to be forever walking downhill, and was patently incapable of moving his head. On seeing this performance, one could almost believe that the future riding accident might actually improve his flexibility. The heroin, as played by a mush-mouthed Madeleine Potter, showed all the plucky conviction of a plate of cold baked beans (yes, with the little puddles of congealed pork fat floating on top). As for the usually magnificent Vanessa Redgrave (in the desperate aging lesbian role), I say 'let's just forget this ever happened.' The only redeeming performances were two tiny bits sent in by Linda Hunt and Jessica Tandy. I'd be surprised if their scripts totaled more than 150 words. It would seem the director didn't bother to load their bloomers with the 100 lbs of wet oatmeal like he did with everyone else.

In a way, it's a shame I only rented The Bostonians. I'll miss out on the gratification I'd have felt in putting it in the microwave. What a tragic waste of good couch time.


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