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The first time I saw this film it was shown on a late night film show introduced by John Hinds. I found it to be one of those films which just "grabs you". The story line concerns a young girl who is cast out by her upper class family when she becomes pregnant. She makes her way in the world by becoming the mistress of a select group of men, all of who love her and whom she loves. This is interwoven with the mystery of who the father of her son is. The by-play between John Mills and his stable of elderly lovers is funny and extremely diverting. Peter Davison is good as his business partner. I thoroughly enjoyed it and return to it at least once a year, as ones does with favourite films and books. Serena Scott-Thomas is gorgeous as Hebe.
There's something about this film that makes it standout from the hordes. It has a top class cast, it's romantic, funny and whimsical. Once seen, never forgotten ! It is not a commercial film as such, meaning that if a viewer is looking for bad language, blood, guts and rampant or graphic sex then it is definitely not for them. If a viewer is looking for gentle attributes, beautiful photography, romance, intrigue and lots of stylishly discreet sex, then it is for he/she. It was shown on late night TV in Australia a few years ago as a special treat by John Hinds, the local film buff and expert/critic on the ABC who recommended it highly. I bought it on the internet and have never seen it in video shops or anywhere else for that matter. I am hanging on to my copy for grim death ! It's like a favorite book that one takes down every year or so and re-reads with the greatest of pleasure. I thoroughly recommend it to a discerning viewer.
I vaguely remember watching "Harnessing Peacocks" many years ago on
North American television late at night while channel surfing, and
ended up sitting through the entire movie by virtue of the compelling
and winsome portrayal of the protagonist, Hebe, a single mom, disowned
from a reputable family, whose charm and beauty provides for herself
and her son. Although the movie surrounds Hebe with English reticence
and middle-class respectability, Serena Scott Thomas's easy and
affecting performance makes perfectly plausible the character's
circumstances and the later plot developments concerning old friends
and lovers. I actually do not recall much of the story, but I do
remember with fondness Serena Scott Thomas's luminous Hebe.
In reference to jaykay3's desire for a DVD of "Harnessing Peacocks", there is one available in the UK; Amazon.co.uk currently sells it as of the writing of this review. It is a region 2 disk using the PAL video standard, so it will not play in a region 1 (USA) player on an NTSC TV. You can, however, get a region free DVD player that also has a built-in PAL/NTSC converter.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this British TV movie in 1995 on A&E, and taped it the very next
time was shown by A&E, with all the commercials left in so that when
taping late at night I would not miss anything from having to restart
the recording and possibly missing a cue. I watch my tape of it quite
frequently, more than once a year since 1995. I soon found and bought a
second-hand paperback copy of the novel (by Mary Wesley, an
Englishwoman who started writing novels when she was 70 and her second
husband's death had left her poor; she died at 90). I enjoy rereading
The story is lively, about differences between snobbish ambitious confident public-school (private school to North Americans) upper-class types and the others, and shows many of the "nobs" as rude and inconsiderate in their behaviour to family members and friends. It follows a beautiful girl from a rich, land-owning, big-house country family; she opts out and disappears, keeps her whereabouts a secret from them, and supports her life by supplying very expensive services to selected rich mostly-upper-class people well able to afford them. When it suddenly all falls apart, luck helps her start putting her life together again in a different and more conventional way, and while she is a little reluctant to to give up some very enjoyable aspects of her life until the crisis, she accepts that she cannot go on as she was, and decides to make a go of the third phase of her life.
The filming is in big houses, in country districts, on country roads (some purporting to be the main road between Exeter and Cornwall), in places purporting to be in the Cornish town of Penzance, in the Scilly Isles, on a sailing yacht, in Exeter and Salisbury. The people look the parts they are playing, acting is quite good but not great, the dialogue is lively and amusing, and there are clear distinctions made between loving, liking, being in love, making love, and having sex, however enjoyable the last may be even without love. The story is hard-headed, realistic in its attitudes, and unsentimental. The lively conversation is liberated, but any lively action is mostly off-screen, and there is no violence.
I keep watching this movie every few months - my tape is already scratched and I don't care. Very smart, sensitive, intricate plot, with a subtle layer of sarcasm which makes it worth my time for the umpteenth time. The smart independent woman heroine portrayed in this movie should be an example to every woman who feels trapped - learn how to take advantage of life and of what you do best, and be prepared to re-think your life when changes make it necessary. Some of the men characters in this movie are so pathetic - just like in real life, while others - well, where could I find one? So... men may not find this movie so uplifting, except maybe for gawking at Serena Scott Thomas - one of the most beautiful actresses of our age (together with Robin Wright and Juliette Binoche).
This is an entertaining movie, though not the best filmed. The plot
moves along quite nicely and the heroine, Hebe, is spirited and
likable. The way she makes "ends meet" by working as a cook and
choosing to be a mistress to a select group of men, lends itself to
unique plot twists and comic moments. Her back story--that of being
rejected by her family due to an unwanted pregnancy and her inability
to identify the father--is sad and implausible, but this doesn't keep
our heroine down or the story from being interesting.
If you are a romantic, this movie won't waste your time. Serena Scott Thomas is lovely in the role; and her gentlemen suitors are a fine and merry bunch.
I saw this a few years back on abc tv in australia and it has stayed with me ever since,I cant recall enough detail to comment in detail just that the performances are fantastic and the story is unique.It is quite simply a beautiful film and I wish it was available on dvd.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A sweetly claustrophobic tale of the tempestuous and almost incestuous
whirl that lies beneath the genteel and respectable surface of
civilised Society in the South west of England. Harnessing Peacocks is
great fun, and is a well acted, well presented, rather saucy drawing
room comedy, that also manages to expose the hypocrisy of 'the right
sort of people'. Vivacious, and fun, and with just a small dollop of
There is some nudity, and a considerable amount of foul language, which give ample justification for the fifteen certificate from the British Board of Film Classification.
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