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Why Lyne's Lolita is Controversial
CLPyle13 August 1998
When the 1997 version of Lolita was widely censored in the US, many asked why the reaction was so strong to this film. After all, the novel was published in the US in 1958, Kubrick's film version appeared in 1962, and we hear more shocking tales of sexual depravity every day on the daytime talk shows. But after seeing Lyne's brilliant version of Lolita, I can see how he manages to breathe fresh controversy into this familiar story. Lyne's lascivious lens eroticizes Lolita's every movement and pose. The viewer is forced to see her through the eyes of Humbert and to feel his obsession and desire. We are co-conspirators in his crime, and at the end we share his shame. Rather than shocking us (and having us pull away in revulsion), Lyne draws us in and makes us face the Humbert in ourselves. This is an incredibly powerful film.
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Humbert the noble, or how to make a pedophile lovable.
FlickJunkie-22 February 2002
This is an excellent adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's brilliant book about the sordid relationship between a grown man and a teenage girl. Although still disconcerting, the subject of pedophilia is far less shocking today than when the book was published almost 50 years ago. Yet, despite the subject matter, the book was wildly popular because it was a literary work of art, beautifully written with some of the most splendid metaphors and descriptive narrative in American literature. This was all the more amazing when one considers that English was Nabokov's second language.

Director Adrian Lynn (Fatal Attraction, 9 ½ weeks, Indecent Proposal) is no stranger to stories with perverse sexual content. His presentation of the story does the book justice although certain interpretations may not have been what Nabokov had in mind. Lynn gives us a presentation that is very sympathetic to Humbert. Nabokov's Humbert was very complex, partly a victim of his fixation on young girls, partly a sexual predator and partly a hopeless romantic. Nabokov's Lolita was extremely innocent, just approaching the threshold of sexual curiosity and urges, more playful than consciously provocative. While Nabokov hints at a mutual seduction, he leans far more heavily towards Humbert as the cause of the events even though Humbert is clearly helpless in the face of his obsession. Lolita entered into the sexual relationship more as a result of longings burgeoning from her blossoming sexuality than a desire to seduce Humbert in particular, who was not even her first lover.

Lynn's presentation transforms Humbert from the seducer into the seduced, whose weakness for young girls is manipulated by a sexually precocious siren tempting him to dash himself on the shoals of pedophilia. Lynn portrays Lolita as the aggressor, an adolescent temptress who knows she is desired and simultaneously teases and entices him to do her lustful bidding, knowing he is powerless to resist. Lynn's Humbert is more of a hapless romantic than a fiend, ennobling him as a victim of love rather than the confounded sociopath he really is. In Lynn's version, Humbert becomes the fly to Lolita's spider.

However, after the initial seduction when they take to the road, the film is very true to the book in chronicling the decay of the relationship, Humbert's further plunge into feelings of romantic desperation and Lolita's shrewish exploitation of him as she increasingly uses sex as a weapon. The book was very effective at portraying the relationship as a symbiosis of two deficient beings, each selfishly taking from the other what was needed. Lynn does an excellent job of portraying that here. As the relationship degenerates, Lynn is effectual at portraying the ugly side of both characters. The bitterness and rancor that results is compelling. To his credit, he understands that Nabokov's story was more of a character study than a sex story and Lynn avoids the temptation of becoming too lurid, focusing instead on solid character development of two very flawed beings.

I must take a moment to give Lynn the highest praise for his period renderings. This is one of the finest portrayals of 1940's Americana I can remember. The costumes, hairstyles, cars, furniture, locations and sets create a 40's reality that is like being hurtled back in a time machine. The music is not just precise for the period, but it is perfectly integrated with the story. As the two travel, the music changes to reflect the region. Having Lolita dance and sing to period music on the radio is a nice touch because that is exactly what teenage girls of any era are apt to do.

The acting is first rate all around. When the film was made, Dominique Swain was 17, and although she looked young for her age, she could never pass for 12. So for the first part of the film before Charlotte's demise, she is simply too mature. However, for the road trip she is ideal. Though I don't agree with Lynn's early interpretation of Lolita as the teenage temptress, I can't imagine it being done any better than the performance Swain delivers. She is playful and provocative in a childlike manner, part pixie and part vamp. Once they get on the road, Swain hits stride with a performance that is almost a force of nature. She is powerful and intense, effortlessly moving back and forth between sweet innocence and the emotional torrent typified by the `murder me' scene. It is an outstanding performance with depth and breadth that is very unusual for an actor so young.

Jeremy Irons is wonderful as Humbert, giving him as amiable a personality as one could possibly imagine for a character with such vile intentions. Irons injects a good deal of wry humor into the part in addition to giving Humbert an almost quixotic romantic quality. Melanie Griffith is just the wrong actress to play Charlotte. She looks nothing like the portly and plain character described in Nabokov's book. Though her acting is fine and she is appropriately obsequious, she is far too attractive to be the repulsive troll Humbert despised. It takes away from Humbert's desperation because it hardly seems like a great sacrifice to have married Charlotte to be near Lolita.

Frank Langella (Dracula) is more obnoxious than mysterious as Quilty, making the audience want to exhort Humbert to pull the trigger as he confronts Quilty with the revolver. Again, I think this is probably Lynn's doing since his vision is clearly that of a Humbert sympathizer.

This is a fine film with great production values, terrific performances and a classic story. I feel that it surpasses Kubrik's adaptation in its ability to capture many of the finer points of Nabokov's book, even though Nabokov collaborated on the Kubrik film. I rated it an 8/10. It is definitely worth digging out of the rental stacks.
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A powerfully moving adaptation
Mr. Gore13 August 1998
Briefly put, this film is a quite brilliant adaptation of the novel. While staying pretty faithful to the original source, Stephen Schiff's screenplay fleshes out the primary characters and their relationship, which plays out as a taboo but reserved love story. Maintaining the central themes, the plot is reduced to the essence of the major players and the linear events of the book. It's almost impossible to adapt a long book into the confines of a single average-length movie, but Schiff captures most of the important moments quite well and humanizes the characters who could have come off as bizarre depictions from Humbert's narrative.

Lyne's movie is at once haunting, compelling, and beautifully photographed. For all the controversy, it is a mature, reflective, and subtle film. "Lolita" is a challenging piece of work that sublimely reflects the pathos of the story and manages to retain bits of the complex humor of Nabokov. This "Lolita" abandons the notion of being a complete social satire and works as an essentially dramatic portrayal of a doomed, inappropriate romance that is ultimately a sad, tragic tale.

The performances are remarkable, especially those of Jeremy Irons and Dominique Swain. Irons is utterly perfect as the ill-fated wretch, Humbert Humbert. So understated but evocative with every move and gesture, he is the definitive Old-World European whose obsession bristles beneath his timorous demeanor. He evokes an incredible amount of sympathy for the character. Swain delivers an on-target portrayal of the flowering nymphet who toys with her burgeoning sexuality but hasn't overcome her fundamental brattiness. Swain elicits both allure and pity as the wayward character whose immaturity in mindset and behavior does not excuse her complicity in her affairs. Despite what some critics may have written, Melanie Griffith is fine in the small role as Lolita's overbearing mother. She is comically obtuse, and her veneer hits all the right, grating notes. Frank Langella rounds out the cast as the mysterious Quilty. He is appropriately shady, vague, and sinister when he appears from time to time, slowly revealing himself.

This is a real winner on many levels and should be up for several awards including best picture, director, actor, actress, and adapted screenplay. Showtime should be congratulated for its smart acquisition. I hope the movie finds its way to the largest possible audience.
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Why did we have to wait over 40 years to see the real "Lolita"?
Alex Zambelli2 August 1999
Warning: Spoilers
Adrian Lyne's "Lolita" has everything it takes to be a good movie adaptation. Lyne follows the original plot very closely, with few slight changes. Even the dialogues in many scenes remained exactly the same. Most of the movie is a flashback, but Lyne doesn't make the same mistake as Kubrick and he follows the correct order of events (Quilty's murder, i.e.).

The casting is excellent. Jeremy Irons proved to be a much better choice than James Mason was in Kubrick's version. Irons delivers probably one of his best performances as he portrays the tragic character of Humbert Humbert. Iron's voice overs help us get into the mind of Humbert and understand his thoughts and actions. Dominique Swain is excellent as Lolita. She is the perfect nymphet. Young and innocent, but vulgar and crude at the same time. Frank Langella as Clare Quilty is a little bit "too mysterious" and he probably should've been a bit funnier, as his character was in Nabokov's book.

The final reason why this movie is better than its predecessor is its photography. The colors are just amazing. They actually seem to follow the mood of the story - from excitingly colorful to tragically dark.

I'm going to keep this user comment rather short. I could compare it to Kubrick's version some more, but it's easier if you just read my comment for Kubrick's "Lolita".

The highlight of the movie is definitely the last scene in which Humbert surrenders to the police - he stands on the top of a hill, listens to the voice of children playing and expresses his remorse for ruining Lolita's life. In this one scene, Lyne managed to capture the whole point of the book that Kubrick totally missed in his movie.

The movie is a perfect 10. Just please go see it without any prejudice.
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Worth seeing if you love the novel
ericl-222 November 1999
Nabokov's best novel save for Pale Fire will probably never get an "ideal" filming, unless someone decides to actually commit Nabokov's own script to celluloid (he wrote it for the 1962 version, and his name appears in the credits, but the finished product was almost wholly the product of Kubrick's pen and Peter Sellers' ad-libbing). But I like both the Kubrick and the Lyne versions, with reservations.

With Kubrick's, the only real problem is that it's not Nabokov. James Mason's performance contains the core of an accurate portrayal of Humbert, and he's often moving. But Sue Lyon was too old for her part and Sellers' Quilty is an altogether different conception from the author's (not that he isn't lots of fun). The film also suffers from having been filmed in the UK. Nabokov had a complex vision of America - vast, tacky, seductive, and grindingly mundane all at the same time - and this just can't be conveyed in a studio and with a few well-chosen locations.

That's where Lyne's version excels. His compositions (or his cinematographer's) are indeed beautiful to look at, and (I think) capture suburban and roadside America very much the way Humbert would have experienced them. Irons is fine as Humbert, although the typecasting was initially painful to contemplate, and Swain is a vast improvement over Lyon as young Dolores: still a bit too old for the part (an inevitable problem, perhaps, for anyone who wants to film this book), but her intelligent performance makes up for this. Despite his cheesy reputation, Lyne wisely refrains from making his Lolita a teenage bombshell, something the more artistic Kubrick couldn't resist.

Again, however, the problem is Quilty. Both directors obviously felt compelled to render in three dimensions a character who is one of Nabokov's phantoms: Does he really exist? Who is he and what do we know about him, outside of Humbert's increasingly paranoid imaginings? Can we trust anything at all that's said about him in this book? I expect that Nabokov himself regretted having to bring Quilty out of the shadows at all for the denouement.

Sellers carried off the role with style, making you forget for a moment that his routines seem to have wandered in from another film. Lyne turns the final confrontation between Humbert and Quilty (there is no flashback framing device, as in Kubrick) into pure Grand Guignol, and so we have to endure watching poor, paunchy Frank Langella running down a hallway of his ridiculously overstuffed house, his bathrobe falling open to reveal his endowments to our embarrassed gaze before being blown away Dirty Harry-style by the avenging Humbert. A major wrong note to say the least.

So Quilty, in the end, defeats both of Nabokov's filmic approximators. But if you love the book, see both movies: Kubrick and Lyne each capture different aspects of the master's great story in valuable ways, and the new Lolita is clearly Lyne's best work yet, proving that a great novel can inspire excellent filmmaking, if not guarantee an "ideal" adaptation.

What we really need now, however, is not a third version of Lolita, but finally, a filming of Lolita: A Screenplay. Nabokov had fun writing this, and any fan of his should read his script as well. Wouldn't you like to see a move of Lolita in which Humbert, searching through the woods for his Lo, encounters a butterfly collector named Vladimir Nabokov? Of course you would!
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Much better than expected
jjh651916 March 2003
Warning: Spoilers
After seeing the Kubrick version, and thinking no one could ever make a better Humbert than James Mason or a better Lolita than Sue Lyon, I saw this updated version, and I was very impressed. It's actually an improvement.

1. Quilty: Of all the things I did not like about the Kubrick version, it was Peter Sellers' quirkily irritating and totally unclear portrayal of this jerk. The latest version completely downplays the character, other than to show that he is a dark, mysterious, monstrous person who keeps showing up in the shadows. Also, it finally clarifies that Quilty is the very worst of Humbert... It is Humbert without a soul, conscience or any redeeming quality. It becomes clear that he is truly a monster, and makes Humbert look almost saintly by comparison.

2. Humbert and Lolita: While I enjoyed the chemistry between James Mason and Sue Lyon immensely, the chemistry between Jeremy Irons and Dominique Swain is ten times better. This is due mostly to Swain, who basically portrays a part of herself. Her teasing and her battles with Irons are priceless and extremely believable. Also, the Sue Lyon version showed Humbert going after an older teen, not as repugnant as the Dominique Swain version showing Humbert going after an actual underaged teen. Also, in this version, most of the movie is about Humbert and Lolita, and their adventures, misfortunes and run from the law.

3. Humbert himself: For the first time, we see the reason for his obsession, and it isn't entirely pedophilia, as in the case of Quilty. Irons is given many additional scenes to show the conflict between his better nature and his pedophile nature, to show that he understands that what he is doing is not only wrong but will be his downfall.

4. The ending: I prefer the way it ended so much more in this later version. First, Quilty finally, for the first time, comes out of the shadows, and we see him for his repulsive self. Sellers' portrayal was too offbeat to allow us to despise this guy as he should be despised. Also, the final "fini" is so downbeat so as to let you know in no uncertain terms that you have just witnessed a multiple tragedy.

Adrian Lyne did an excellent job of directing, and the music of Ennio Morricone was a great help to the also excellent cinematography.
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Art is a divine game
karl_consiglio11 September 2006
I had read Nabokov's book and watched the older movie too. What i liked about this more recent version is Jeremy Irons playing the part of Humbert Humbert and so precisely. This film in my eyes had a certain Kubrick quality to it. This is high souled genius if you ask me with a fervent faith that art is a divine game. and that pleasure in art consists in following the moves of the game with the artist himself when he communicates his own playful and Godlike bliss. Poet and pervert, Humbert becomes obsessed with twelve year old Lolita and seeks to possess her, first physically and then artistically, out of love. The magic of nymphets. This is a dizzying seduction, a masterpiece in a strange dimension, very rich. Lolita is a major work in fiction, equally intense as wildly funny. A Medusa's head with trick paper snakes chewing gum. Beautiful and original, pervasively and continuously funny, with a humour that is both savage and farcical which comes to a most interesting and I repeat most interesting and unexpected ending.
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Lyne's Lolita emphasizes tragedy of Nabokov's novel
pooch-84 February 1999
Lyne's point of departure from the Kubrick version of Nabokov's great novel lies primarily in tone: the later version focuses more on the tragic, dramatic elements of the book and less on the comedic ones. I will not go so far as to suggest that Lyne made a better film; he did not. I do think, however, that he did pinpoint one of the key components of the novel's genius: a capturing of life on the newly paved highways of mid-century America. As Humbert, Jeremy Irons is as good as his predecessor James Mason. Frank Langella's interpretation of Quilty entirely diverges from the one given by Peter Sellers (and rightfully so; who wants to compete with Sellers?). But it is Dominique Swain, outdoing Sue Lyon, who comes closer than what ever seemed possible to embodying the essence of the doomed Dolly Haze.
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Lost Narrative Folds
tedg12 August 2000
The Author would be dismayed, and precisely because the story is so faithful to the book. But the story in the book was incidental, just something on which Nabokov could hang his layered challenges to concepts of narrative. The narrator is crazy, overly colors and outright lies. The story never fully exists in the book at all, and such as it does one can never be sure what is true and what imagined. Humbert is a made up name (as are all names) and clearly the narrator makes up most of the elements of his own character as well (European, Professor, Author... obviously a joke by the narrator on Nabokov).

In this film, everything makes sense, exactly the opposite of the reason the book exists. This is a beautiful film, with lovely detailed cinematography, good acting and great score, and all to solidify something that Nabokov created such that it could not be so. I believe that Peter Greenaway could make a good film of Lolita, and that he would have the courage to make it confusing and unerotic and unresolved. Why does Dolores' fate have to change in the film's epilogue? Because it ties up every last loose end. On Christmas Day no less!

(The real scandal is not that audiences/censors are shocked by prurient subjects, but that they take one of the greatest literary achievements ever and make it "explainable." Is this the only thing we can accept?)

But take the film on its own presumption that the book's story is what matters. This Lolita is too old, too pretty and sexy, too controlling. Irons is clearly narrowly channeled here and he is smart enough to know it: his frustration with the unimaginative stance of the film translates to a frustrated Humbert. I think Melanie is just right (just because HH calls her a cow means nothing). HH's violence with his previous wife should have been mentioned; her running away with the Russian cabbie is as much a setup for the Lolita fixation as the childhood dalliance, and better justifies the angst of loss. There should have been a few butterflies, and some explanation about the play: that it was written to allude to that first night at the hotel.

I highly recommend the audio tape version of Lolita. It is read by (guess...) Jeremy Irons! What he brings to the audio tape is the voice and phrasing of a man in a cell continually going over things in his own mind, embellishing and exaggerating and confusing and speculating and sometimes not at all sure about any of it. He brings this same voice to the voiceovers in the film, but it conflicts with the images which purport to represent a narrative stance of "real truth".
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wonderfully done
jenguest10 September 2007
This film is a stunning adaptation of the novel of the same name. The cinematography is absolutely beautiful and the film is brilliantly acted. The content of the story may put off many prospective viewers, but the story does not condone Humberts actions, it simply narrates them. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Humberts (Irons) loss of his young love scars him in a way which compels him to rediscover it, through relationships with young girls. He moves to a town to accept a teaching position and while looking for suitable housing he meets Lolita Haze (Swain), a young girl who immediately catches his eye and his heart. The rest of the film chronicles their tempestuous relationship, one in which Humbert takes advantage of Lolita's natural curiosity and developing mind and body. I highly recommend this version of the film and the book to any person interested in a beautifully written, compelling story about one haunted man's selfish folly and the effect it has the young girl it revolves around.
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keith-moyes21 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This is not at all a bad movie and is surprisingly faithful to the book. At times I suspected some scenes had been inserted to appease a contemporary sensibility but, on checking, I found they were all in the book.

I generally prefer this Lolita to Kubrick'e version, but both versions raise an interesting question.

It is a presumption of cinema that any novel can be satisfactorily filmed. Lolita casts doubt on this.

The problems can be illustrated by a small, but crucial, change that both films make to the book. When Humbert first meets Lolita she is 12. In the movies she is 14 and is played by actresses who were 15 and 16 respectively.

Objectively, this change shouldn't matter: under age is under age. In practice it does. When you see a 14 or 15 year-old, you can see the woman she is about to become. When you see a 12 year-old you can only see the child. Raising Lolita's age makes Humbert seem less perverse than Nabokov intended and James Mason and Jeremy Irons both make him too sympathetic.

All Nabokov needed to write Lolita was a typewriter and some paper. To film it, Kubrick and Lyne needed a young actress. Jodie Foster, Nathalie Portman and Lindsay Lohan all show that it would have been possible to find a 12 year-old actress good enough to carry the movie - but should she be asked to? If it was absolutely necessary to have a 12 year-old in order to make this movie, then most people would say: "Don't make it then".

But this is only part of a wider issue.

Nabokov wanted to put readers inside the head of a paedophile without them endorsing his actions: empathy doesn't necessarily imply sympathy. His first attempt was The Enchanter (which gave us the word nymphet). It was written in the third person. Nabokov was unhappy with it and it was only published after his death.

Lolita was written in the first person and that changed everything.

The book is Humbert's own testimony. He wants to present himself as a sensitive aesthete: a romantic lost soul surrounded by dull, uncomprehending Philistines. He charts his seedy obsession in elaborate, over-ripe 'poetic' prose, trying to draw the reader into his self-delusion, but we soon come to doubt the truth of what he is telling us. He can't help letting us see through his self-serving narrative to glimpse the murky reality that lurks beneath. Lolita is in real distress and is being profoundly corrupted by this unhealthy relationship.

Humbert's nymphet fantasy soon starts to crumble before the reality of a troubled, wilful, increasingly manipulative child. Then he finds himself haunted by the ominous shadow of Clare Quilty, who we come to realise is his dark alter ego (Humbert's doubled name is a fairly obvious clue to Nabokov's intentions). Humbert is the doomed romantic he wants to be seen as: Quilty is the evil sexual predator he really is. Inevitably, it is Quilty that wins the battle for Lolita.

Eventually, Humbert emerges from his pubescent fixation and has a relationship with an adult woman, so when he finally meets Lolita again he is able to see (and love) her as a real person. But it is too late. At this point, there is nothing left for him to do but finally kill off his evil doppelganger and then die himself.

The point of Lolita, therefore, is not just in the the events it depicts, but in the particular way it depicts them. It is not only a story: it is a specific literary device. I think this presents an insoluble problem for a film-maker.

I doubt if there is a cinematic equivalent to Nabokov's mendacious first person narrative. Cinema only really works in the third person and is a very literal medium: 'the camera doesn't lie'. When Hitchcock used a misleading flashback in Stage Fright people were outraged and even film critics, who should have known better, complained about the deception.

Kubbrick and Lyne can both show us that the real Lolita is a far cry from Humbert's idealised nymphet but we are always seeing the disturbing reality itself, rather than that reality filtered through the haze of Humbert's prevarications.

Kubrick tried to defuse the problem by playing up the humour. The first hour, in which Shelley Winters's Charlotte vamps the stiff, repressed Humbert to his considerable discomfort, mines the humour of embarrassment. Then Kubrick lets Peter Sellers loose to do a series of virtuoso comic turns. They are great, but overload the picture. Kubrick's Humbert is constantly being harried and badgered and in the end is less a sexual predator than a hapless victim. I don't think the movie works and Kubrick seemed to agree. He often talked about remaking it.

Adrian Lyne uses the voice-over to give us more of Humbert's oily verbosity and he can be much more frank about the true nature of this deplorable relationship. But, again, we are spectators of events as they actually occur, rather than as Humbert wants us to see them, and the greater frankness only compounds the problems. Although his version is better in many respects than Kubrick's, it is even more uncomfortable to watch.

Because of the nature of the medium in which they were working, Kubrick and Lyne both ended up making The Enchanter, not Lolita.

I am not suggesting that it was wrong to make these movies. Film-makers should be free to tackle any subject that intrigues them - and it is not a crime to fail. It is just that the problems inherent in some books are so great it is unlikely there will be any solutions to them. Perhaps there are some challenges that film-makers should just decline.

I suspect Lolita is one of them.
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Magnetic Irons
LesliePVD8 July 2001
Warning: Spoilers
With nostalgia, we look back on the films of yesterday and proclaim them far superior than what is advertised on the marquis today. Bombarded by gratuitous sex, reckless violence and distracting special effects, critics often dismiss today's features by simply saying, `They're too Hollywood.' To some extent this is true, but we must not reject all current day films. In fact, 1997's Lolita is an example of a current day film that is superior to the original motion picture release of Vladmir Nabokov's controversial novel. One could even argue that the modern version is less Hollywood, since every American distributor refused to show the film. Regardless, 1997 version's supremacy is due in part to the depth at which Jeremy Irons is able to take our darling pedophiliac, Humbert Humbert. Irons' portrayal is magnetic due to his depth of character, which is seen both in his sincerity to real life and his truth to Nabokov's writing.

A flashback in the beginning of the 1997 movie portrays a fourteen-year-old Humbert's doomed summer romance to Annabel, which sets up Irons' Humbert as a brokenhearted romantic. Thus, when he sees Lolita for the first time, lying out in the grass of the ‘piazza,' innocently letting the water from the sprinkler drench her, the reincarnation of that love is clear. That clarity, however, transcends the simple addition of the flashback. Unlike James Mason, the 1962 Humbert Humbert, Irons' startling licentious stare at Lolita is that much comprehensive. In those eyes the viewer sees tenderness with wickedness, occupation without realization, a moment of pure lust. The amorous connection is developed in that one look-whereas Mason's look at his Lolita is obvious and plain-Lolita is a beautiful girl, the look shows a man seeing something beautiful. Irons not only sees beauty but he perversely sees a sexual creature, correctly identifying the perplexing issue for the reader and viewer of Lolita… While his love is based on pedophilia, is there something in his love for Lolita that is common to all love? His intoxication is precisely what makes the story of Lolita so fascinating-Humbert's love for Lolita is as real as anyone's love for another, and the perverse thing is that he truly madly deeply loves a child. Mason fails to show the depth of love that Irons easily does in the first meeting.

From the first meeting on, Irons is true to the version of Humbert Lynne and Schiff prescribe. Unlike the 1962 version, we see those rare moments of ease with Lolita: delighting her with stories as they swing on the porch, the rapt, nearly bashful smile he gives her while she sits in his lap showing him how she can make her chin wiggle. Irons's Humbert is heartbreaking. He is tortured. He is helpless. Despite those scenes when Humbert is buying affections from Lolita with a jar full of coins, despite his heavy authority over her activities, Irons never let's the viewer lose sight of his complete and utter dependence on Lolita. Although Lynne and Schiff's version seems void of the cunning that is so very much a part of the literary Humbert, the essential question is the same: Who was in control of the situation? Lolita or Humbert? Who is more to blame for the affair? Through possibility of empathizing with Humbert's love for Lolita, the viewer is left with an unnerving understanding of his pedophilia. Unlike Mason, Irons makes it almost impossible to completely detach our knowledge of what love is from the perverse love between Humbert and Lolita.

Being true to a character, as in being true to a book, means that an actor catches the essence from the book, not necessarily the exact phrasing or the exact chronology of events. Irons catches Humbert Humbert's tenderness and the true infatuation that is so evident in his confessions, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita.
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Having not seen Kubrick's version, I can only say...
Aislynn16 September 1999
I fell in love with Nabokov's masterpiece. Upon hearing that there was a movie adapted from the novel (I am of a younger generation) I found it hard to believe that anyone could put into visual images and dialogue what had appeared in my mind as flawless. After seeing this remade version, I came away satisfied. Hearing what countless critics had to say has never changed my view. Of course, it can never come even close to the novel, but watching Lyne's version unfold in quiet and somber light brought to mind the exact same feelings I was experiencing reading the book. Certain things did bother me. Lolita's mother in particular. Hearing Melanie Griffith deliver lines as if she were reading to a group of school children set my teeth on edge, although she went down in fine style. And having the sole reason for Humbert's obsession with nymphets wrapped up in one neat reason(Annabel) was also hard to swallow. But Dominique Swain was nearly the perfect picture of the Lolita in my mind. Wistful, vulnerable, and a fierce manipulator all at once, it's hard to believe she'd never had acting experience beforehand. Perhaps a bit too old in certain lights, she still managed to carry off a difficult role and steal every scene she was in, much like Natalie Portman in "Beautiful Girls". Certain expressions were incredibly poignant. (Think of Lo's face when Humbert denied permission to be in the play. Think of her lipstick smeared smile after being caught going out when Humbert went to the market). The essence of this movie is what formed my opinion that this was a good film. The pacing, the comparison to Kubrick didn't matter when the mood of the entire film was left. Maybe the critics are right, and I'm missing something. But when the final scene appeared, that dreamy image of Lolita's face, I was completely satisfied that Lyne did the best job anyone could have.
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Adrian Lyne captures Nabokov's descriptive prose in Lolita.
seamus-153 May 1999
Adrian Lyne captures Nabokov's descriptive prose with the film camera. It certainly was not an easy task but Lyne uses some amazing camera angles and well planned shots to reveal subtle motives in the storyline. This movie is worth seeing on the large screen because of its amazing cinematography. The New England landscape is grandiose and very colourful, the images look like they're out of a story book. Jeremy Irons plays Humbert, the hero of this fairytale. Along with Lyne, he creates an introspective and moody character who fills the atmosphere of the movie. I liked this adaptation much more Kubrick's earlier comedy which took a light hearted approach to the novel. I found Lyne paid justice to Nabokov's story and storytelling in this movie.
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A failure...
Frits van Houten25 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this film before i read the movie or had seen Kubrick's film.

When i read the book and compared it to this film, i realized that this film is a failure in representing the book of Nabokov.

Sure, more of the story events take place in this film then Kubrick's, but it translated the scenes completely inaccurate as to how they were described in the book.

All of the characters in the book were completely different as to how they are portrayed in this film.

Humbert in the book was a mean manipulative snake type of character. A self-obsessed flamboyant character, with a taste for doing dirty deeds to reach his goals. Humbert in the book doesn't love Lolita. Not her character anyway. He is a man sexually obsessed with her looks and her age, not her personality, which he complaints time after time in the book. The Humbert character in the book was a lot closer to Clare Quilty then the 1997 movie makes it seem.

This film makes Jeremy Irons's Humbert a tragic traumatized drama character full of guilt and despair. A tragic romantic lonesome man with a broken heart and basically a good person besides one little flaw.

Then Lolita in the book. Lolita in the books 12, and basically not much different from your average girl in the early days of puberty. Experimenting with the power of sexuality? Yes. Slutty? No. Lolita in the book is just a girl who got into this situation by accident, and tries all that she can for her young age to stay alive.

The Lolita in the book is not the sexualized naughty teenager we see in the media. That was the result of various forms of media exploitation.

The Lolita in the book didn't have any blond or red braids or pigtails, and didn't wear sailor or any other stereotype outfits.

The Lolita in the book was girl with dark brown bobbed hair, and a honey tanned skin, with a polka-dot bikini.

However, the 1997 film portrayed Lolita the way she's been portrayed as a stereotype teenage hussy in the sex industry as well as the regular media. With her reddish blond braids and pigtails, stereotypical child-girl outfits and average ordinary sleazy teenage character, the Lolita played by Dominique Swain is NOTHING like the character in the book. Neither by look or by character.

Then Clare Quilty in the book was described as a charismatic artist. Ultimately a dangerous wealthy pervert, but he was never described as a dirty old man. Clare Quilty in the book was a Humbert with a bigger house and more money.

Clare Quilty in this movie is portrayed as the audience of today expects it. The "Marc Dutroux" type of sick dirty pig-like maniac.

I thought this movie was good at the point when i hadn't read the book, but after i read the book, i thought is was a failure.

I dislike it because when it came out, the production team and every newspaper and article claimed that this movie was made absolutely faithful to the book. When i read the book, i found out that is was all but faithful to Vladimir Nabokov's book.

Kubrick's film may have been a bit shy and tame, but it was closer to the heart and soul of Nabokov's novel. It didn't hide important key elements of Humbert's twisted personality.

Before you watch this movie, read the book. After you've seen this movie, read the book again.
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Lyne outdoing Kubrick
Bones Eijnar27 July 2010
LOLITA by Adrian Lyne, was immediately and understandably compared to Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of the novel by Vladimir Nabokov, and although I think Kubrick made a wonderful film, what I do think director Lyne's version does better, is the way it captures the tragedy of it all, instead of the comedy. Tragedy in the sense that it dares more than Kubrick's film did (which I believe has nothing to do with the censorship in the 60ties), because director Lyne isn't interested in sexually or provocatively exploiting the relationship between Humbert (a marvelous Jeremy Irons) and Lolita/Dolores (Dominique Swain), he makes it sort of enigmatic, carefully lingering and beautiful. More faithful to the novel, the film successfully achieves the great character nuance of the civilized and sophisticated Humbert Humbert, and the way he falls completely in love with such a obnoxious and difficult child, who's at the same time such an alluring, facetious and sexual creature. Another stronghold for the film in its dignity as an adaption of the novel, is Ennio Morricone's sweepingly romantic and classic score. It may just be a notch better than Kubrick's film, and for me personally, as an adaptation of the novel, it also rings more true.
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new adaption of Lolita (following may contain spoilers)
laodicean1316 December 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Jeremy Irons plays Humbert Humbert, 40ish professor who falls in love disastrously with a 12-year old nymphet. This movie is a closer adaptation of Nabokov's book than the Kubrick version. One flaw of the Kubrick film was that it begins with the end and gives away crucial plot points and takes away suspense. In the Lyne version, the scene at the beginning takes place again near the end but this time, it reveals nothing. Dominique Swain is excellent as the title character. She looks and acts the part of the nymphet that Sue Lyons could have never have pulled off. Some have suggested that Miss Swain was too old to play a 12 year old child, but Dolores Haze is not 12 for the whole book. A good portion of the novel takes place after she is 12. When they are on the road, she is 13. When she is in the all girl's school, she is 14. She is 17 at the end. The movie is not without flaws however. Some scenes of humor with Irons falls flat. I found Melanie Griffith to be very annoying but then again Lolita's mother was suppose to be. Thankfully she's only on screen for a short time.

Lolita is shown eating bananas in the movie. Besides the phallic references, the bananas were used because the inspiration for Lolita came when Nabokov read a newspaper article about the first monkey to paint a picture (or so he claims.) The scientist gave him the tools to draw and the first thing he drew was the bars of his cage.

I can't say that this version of Lolita is better than the Kubrick version, they each contain what the other misses. Kubrick's version contains the humor that Lyne's version is lacking while Lyne's version contains the sadness that Kubrick missed. Including reading Lolita, I would recommend that the viewer get both films. For Lolita, is both a satire and a sad story rolled into one. The two films in a way compliment each other.
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an extraordinary movie of my favorite book
verdie12 June 2007
The first time I watched this, my mouth was hanging open. I've read _Lolita_ dozens of times, and over and over again the movie captured it exactly the way it is in my mind.

Lyne's extraordinary sense of time and place, the uncanny casting of Jeremy Irons and Dominique Swain (although I agree with some posters that Melanie Griffith wasn't up to the job; makes me miss the late great Shelley Winters), Morricone's haunting music -- they're all remarkable. And best of all, the film perfectly captures the ambiguity of the book: we can sympathize with Humbert at the same time as we recognize him as the monster he is. I don't think _Lolita_ could be done much better than this. An amazing film.
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Great movie, I highly recommend to anyone.
einga12 February 1999
This movie really makes you sit back and think about why two people fall in love and how someone can become blinded by that love. Irons' character is very believable in what he is going through and why he falls in love with Swain. Swain plays the role perfectly by being sexy and innocent at the same time. The movie lags for a bit right before the end but was very believable in the story that it tells. And why an older man may become attracted to a much younger girl.
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The little things
spyflea3 January 2004
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is very well directed and casted and acted out, overall its an incredible movie. Usually I judge a good movie by comparing it to a book as in the descriptions the words used and such. Lolita does all of the little things that makes for one great film. There is the scene where lolita takes Humberts breakfast to him, and when she does she steps her one bare foot onto Humbert's left foot, and i can imagine a small warm foot against his. And she warns him "Don't tell mother I ate your bacon." Shes able to experiment with her power and exploit Humbert for his unfortunate situation. As well in the opening music of the film is very beautiful and sweet, and out of place touches of dissonent tones, reflecting Lolita and her effect on Humbert. On the one hand she is the Light of his life and the fire of his loins. On the other hand she hold him at the end of her little finger, flicking him to test his loyalty.

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Cecil-515 November 1998
Critics have been raving about the faithfulness of this version, and while it is certainly faithful in the strictest sense of the word, gone is the wit, the humor, and bitterness of Nabokov's novel. They have been replaced by exactly the kind of garish puffery that Nabokov was making fun of.
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A all new Lolita, that will whet many appetites
Here was another remake, I enjoyed more than the original, this one would of really come well across the big screen. Perfectly filling the boots of the Lol real here, Swain is one hell of an acting revelation. She can act, but also as proved in this, can act younger than she looks. She's the whole package of Lolita: cheeky, innocent, flirtatious, and soon to be manipulated and corrupted, by a playwright/pedoarse, (Langella, hauntingly evil) who's a bad turn of fate upon Irons in the finale. Swain is up against some stiff acting competition, like her older lover, Irons, her strict and selfish mother, Griffith, really impressive, and of course Langella as I mentioned before, who cringes like a toad, for his sins, in the finale which I really liked. This time around, Lolita has been done more visually, with more plotting and life poured into it's characters, sorry Stanley, although that vivid sunbaking scene, to whet your whistle, I never got out of my head. It was easy to see, the controversy that burst out from the public, accusing it of promoting pedophilia, where there was one or two scenes with our leads stark, making love, that actually bordered on crossing that line. Adrian Lynne, of course renowned for that 86 hit, Nine And A Half Weeks (god that was a long time ago) has done us proud here, or remade us proud here. A must definitely watch: of course it's main reason, fresh new acting find, Swain.
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The Melody of Children at Play? Not Quite
Chrysanthepop4 April 2011
Adrian Lyne's 'Lolita' is somewhat different from Kubrick's film and Nabokov's book. The latter two pieces were very suggestive and much of it was open to interpretation. Stephen Schiff's screenplay pretty much has an explanation for everything. While the visuals and acting is subtle, the story here lacked that and in turn, lacks the layers of Kubrick's adaptation and Nabokov's novel.

Yet, even though not as strong as its predecessors, Lyne's film is an interesting adaptation. It is quite a well-made film. The photogenic visuals are wonderfully detailed. The art direction is stunning and the soundtrack and cinematography are brilliant. Jeremy Irons, Melanie Griffith, Dominique Swain and Frank Langella deliver excellent performances.

Evidently, Adrian Lyne has an eye for detail (as has been proved in his other works) and thus 'Lolita' is visually captivating. Even though it doesn't live up to the book and the first cinematic adaptation, it's still an interesting viewing. I'll recommend it to those who have already read the book and seen Kubrick's version.
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It Should have gone Straight to Video!!
springwater1624 February 2007
Words cannot describe how bad this movie is. They try to make Humbert too sympathetic instead of a monster, when really he is a sympathetic monster, and that is the beauty of the novel Lolita, one moment you hate him the next you feel bad for him. I believe Irons could have been a good Humbert if the screenplay had been batter. Yes, Swain was too old to play Lolita but why, why on earth do they have her acting like a 5-year-old. Running and skipping and jumping and playing with dolls, by age 12 most girls are throwing out their dolls because they want to be more mature and are becoming interested in sex, which is exactly what Lolita was doing in the novel, she was smack-dab in-between the child world and adult world. I wish Swain would have remembered what it was like at that age instead of trying to over compensate for being too old by acting childish but maybe that is what the script required her to do. Griffith did an okay job but when I read the book I picture more of the Haze in the 1962 movie, meaning I see her as a bigger woman and more over the top. With all that said neither film lives up to the book but the Kubrick version gets away with more because he doesn't try to stay true to the novel, which is a masterpiece. No one will ever be able to capture the beauty of Lolita on film and I hope this is the last time they try.
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