I'm not really going to talk too much on the film; I will touch on it. I read a review on here last night that prompted me to read the book. Read half last night, and the other half this morning. I'm not really a fan of Henry James. Never cared for his work, always found him egotistical and condescending of his readers. This film is nothing like the book in that guise. Also, the father in the book was egotistical, condescending, crude, and unloving of anyone, probably even himself. He did love his wife and son but they died; he did not love his daughter. It wasn't her he was protecting, it was Catherine's money she inherited, and his money, of course. The entire novel is solely about two things: money and Catherine: everyone loves the money (but Catherine) and no one loves Catherine but Catherine loves everyone. Don't get me wrong: she's used to wealth and like anyone, she cares in that guise but she would gladly give it up for love. Catherine loves her father, her Aunt, Morris, even herself. She's filled with love and each of those characters, in the novel, breaks her heart one by one. In the novel the Aunt fantasizes a lot, she's carefree, jubilant, and a bit of a child in her own way but does fear her brother. In the film she's made into a maid of the daughter, and fears her brother. In the book she's young looking and attractive. Nothing against Maggie Smith but she's not young looking or attractive in the film.
Catherine is a strong person. Morris is weak. He wants the money, and in the novel he's not shy about expressing that to everyone because he's poor, without employment (for the most part), and he squanders everything; in some sense he believes he can make a standing with Catherine's money and future inheritance. The part in the film where he states with passion he doesn't care about Catherine's father's money is a lie. Especially to the character of the book. Now, while in the novel I don't believe he actually loves or ever loved Catherine I did feel he cared about her well-being. He wasn't total scum but close to it. He was still scum because Catherine already had an inheritance from her mother she received $10,000 a year. In today's dollars, that's almost $200,000 a year. She, in her own right, was already very wealthy. Of course the father's wealth was $30,000 per year which equates to almost $900,000 in today's money. And Morris wanted that, too! But he knew of being poor and I think he cared enough about her not to want her in that position.
The father is total scum. He cares nothing for his daughter's well- being except in reflection of himself but he'd gladly have her be a pauper to prove himself right; and his entire life, from the moment that Morris comes into his daughter's life, is to prove that very point. However, in the novel he actually liked Morris. The only thing he didn't like was him marrying his daughter. Also, in the novel, the father is very sarcastic. That does not show in the film, and he's forthright with Catherine in the sense that he allows her to do as she pleases but mentions in heartbreaking mannerisms how disappointed he will be if she goes ahead and does the things he doesn't care for. The film, he's not like that all. Not sarcastic, doesn't really let her do what she wants, and seems pretty tyrannical; like the scene in the film on the cliff. I thought he was going to push her over. That scene never happened in the novel--or the urination scene, prostitution scene etc.,--Yes, they went on a long walk and got lost but there was no implication he wanted to kill his own daughter -- how would that look? He's all about appearance in the novel. Seemed over-dramatic, in my opinion.
The Aunt is a bit mischievous in the novel. Poking her nose where it most likely doesn't belong only to make her brother's ego bruised without repair; a sense of perhaps comeuppance for the way he treated her, or perhaps even stranger in a sort of crush on Morris though the novel calls it a sort of mother/son or brother/sister relationship; the latter probably in reference to the indifference to her own brother. And, in such manner, in concern to the novel, she may have unknowingly broke Catherine's heart.
Catherine, in the novel, feels so unloved by everyone. They're always referring to her as dimwitted, stupid, plain etc., and James makes note that she does have her strengths and qualities that everyone seems to disregard as nothing but childish musings. But, she goes on loving them, even to the end. Even when you believe she has finally given up and relented to the fact she can give no more love. No! She still loves but as stated: she's not dimwitted and stupid. In the film, she's always sad, or crying, or slow to recognize the truth of things. As much as I do not care for James, he did not write that as Catherine in the novel. At least not in my viewpoint. And though Catherine recognizes in the film the cruelty of who and what her father is, it only seems to be mentioned at the end of the film. Morris mentions the cruelty of who he really is, and as a young woman in love, she doesn't care but as an "old maid" of 40 at the end of the novel, while you know she still loves Morris, her strength of knowing that while she does love him he'll never love her, only her money, and her father's money.
The novel has passion, the film does not.