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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

'The Heiress' was superior to this remake

Author: ( from United States
31 January 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This adaptation, like 1949's *The Heiress*, is based on the Henry James novel. *The Heiress*, starring Olivia de Havilland, remains as a well-respected piece of work, though less true to James' original story than this new remake, which retains James' original title. It is the story of a awkward, yet loving daughter (Leigh), devoted to her father (Finney) after her mother dies during childbirth. The arrogant father holds his daughter in no esteem whatsoever, and considers her, as well as all women, simpleminded. When a young man (Chaplin) of good family and little fortune comes courting, the Father is naturally suspicious, but feeling so sure that his daughter could hold no interest for any man, is convinced that the young man is a fortune hunter and forbids her to see him. Leigh is a controversial actress – most either love her or hate her – and she always has a particular edginess and tenseness to her style, like she's acting through gritted teeth. She's not bad in this, and she handles her role relatively deftly – it's just an awkward role for any actress, making the audience want to grab the character by her shoulders and shake her until she comes to her senses. While the character garners a lot of sympathy, she's not particularly likable. The very handsome and immensely appealing Ben Chaplin (previously seen in *The Truth About Cats and Dogs*) plays his role with the exact amount of mystery required to keep the audience guessing whether he is after her fortune, or is really in love with her. Maggie Smith is one of the finest actresses alive and raises the level of the movie considerably with her portrayal of the well-meaning aunt. Finney is marvelous, of course, as the father who threatens to disinherit his daughter for her disobedience, but the daughter is willing to risk that for the man she loves. But does her ardent suitor still want her without her fortune? This is only one instance where *Washington Square* differs from *The Heiress*. Another instance is the ability to stick with it. It is a handsome movie that is as tedious as a dripping faucet, offering too little story in too long of a movie.

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9 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

It does not work for me.

Author: glencominc from United States
27 August 2005

I do not know who is to blame, Miss Leigh or her director, but her performance as Catherine is almost impossible to watch. Ben Chaplin on the other hand does a superior job - against all odds as far as I am concerned. His character is entirely too charming and appealing. but certainly not shown as greedy enough, to put up with Leigh's character's silliness. Chaplin appears bemused by what cannot possibly be understood as Leigh's shyness and lack of grace, but rather her orthopedic unsteadiness. There has to be some element of believability to his interest, but as played it is incomprehensible. The performances do not jibe. Maggie Smith and Albert Finney are, of course, wonderful despite any effort to derail them. The supporting cast is also a pleasure to watch. What a pity, too, the leads don't work together because the production is lovely to look at.

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10 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Over-long, over-acted, and over-directed

Author: (Lanwench) from New Yawk City
4 February 2001

This was such a ham-handed film that only the invisible force field that surrounds my couch prevented me from getting up and turning the television off. Much of Leigh's performance seemed to consist of channelling Ally Sheedy's quirky "Breakfast Club" shtick. Jeez, Catherine isn't supposed to be the village idiot; she's just naive and sheltered. The scenes involving pants-wetting and prostitution were unfaithful to James' spirit, let alone the actual text, and the music was god-awful and anachronistic, especially the irritating piano duet.

Albert Finney and Maggie Smith did their best, but the direction gets the Golden Toilet award. Oh, look; it's sunny - such felicity abounds! Aw, gee, it's raining, let's all fall down in the street to the sounds of swelling symphonic shmaltz. Peuw.

And I am normally a such a forgiving costume drama fiend. Alas.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Unnecessary alterations to story defuse the original power.

Author: mark.waltz from United States
15 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a story that has always bothered me from the first time I saw the original 1949 movie ("The Heiress") many years ago to the recent Broadway revival. It is interesting to note that Judith Ivey who plays the younger sister of Albert Finney here played the older sister in the 2012 production (played by Maggie Smith here). And being a look at polite American society, this can be compared to "Downton Abbey" from the opposite side of the Atlantic, with Dan Stevens playing the young man squiring around Catherine Sloper in that production as well. Those who only know Dame Maggie Smith from "Downton Abbey" and the "Harry Potter" movies will enjoy her here in a change of pace role as a really kind matron who anxiously longs to see her niece (Jennifer Jason Leigh) get together with the poor but charming Morris Townsend (Ben Chapin) even though her doctor brother (Finney) is dead set against their even seeing each other socially.

The real conflict here is the relationship between father and daughter, a complicated and resentful one. Father hates daughter because his beloved wife died giving birth to her, and he was never able to relate to her emotionally. While Catherine has inheritance from her mother's side of the family, her father makes it clear that she will inherit nothing from him if she does not do his bidding, which means not marrying Chapin. While the character of Catherine is supposed to be plain, Leigh doesn't fit the bill. The problem with her performance is that Catherine seems quite hard, while DeHavilland's Catherine was fragile and only plain by the fact that she wore a very severe hairstyle that was not flattering to her face. That made her seem more suppressed, and her inner beauty was more obvious. Leigh also makes her character much more clinging, so ultimately, she is not as likable, closer to the unattractive heroine of the musical "Passion" than to what the original play and movie had her to be.

As Dr. Austin Sloper, Albert Finney is excellent, a combination of social mores, hidden hatred of his daughter, and in conflict with himself between his coldness and his Hippocratic oath. Smith, as always, is the consummate scene stealer, making her Aunt Livinia one you'd love to have over for cocktails and babysit the kids. It makes no sense that Leigh's Catherine would blame her aunt for Morris walking out on her. It is nice, however, to see the great Maggie playing an older character who is filled with strawberry ice cream in her heart instead of ice water in her veins and a wisecrack on her tongue. Even without the witty dialog she has gotten to say on stage and in films throughout her career, Smith delivers each line as if she was spreading butter on corn-Sweet, a bit salty and delicious to the ear.

As for the alterations I mention, there seems no other reason to do this than to feminize the narrative. They took out the "What's good for the goose is good for the gander" lesson of rejection by altering the plot twists towards the end. In the original versions both on stage and on screen, you can tell that Catherine will go on with her life whether being a spinster or not, but something tells me here that Leigh's Catherine will end up like "Great Expectation's" Miss Haversham and be one of the most feared and disliked characters around. It is the twist of the ending which always bothered me, but in this version, I saw no need to change it.

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Major Disappointment, Totally BORING Film

Author: doniejamesqm from United States
9 October 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I love Henry James books and Washington Square was no exception. I was very excited to see a new movie coming out, based on the book of that title. Jennifer Jason Lee is an exceptional actress and Ben Chaplin good enough to play the lead roles. Albert Finney is miscast and doesn't carry the role well. I wanted to shoot Maggie Smith....or rather her silly, insipid role. The real problem and what's lacking in this latest version is a good script, music, and direction.

I fell asleep in the theater watching this long, drawn out and exceptionally boring movie. There are more pauses in the dialog than a Pinter Play. In the book I felt a deep caring for Catherine Sloper and her life. The movie had just the opposite effect. I also disliked the twist where her aunt has a sexual attraction to Morris. Eeeeeeeek. YUK.

Watch it if you can't sleep, it's a definite snoozer. Don't watch it if you're depressed. You'll need Zoloft after this.

Sure, "The Heiress" was exceptional with Olivia Haviland and Montgomery Clift in the title roles. The actor who played her father was on the mark as the uncaring, cold father....still grieving for his dead wife and hating Catherine for it. The movie was not faithful to the book but neither is this one.

This movie was a box office flop. I have no doubts as to why.

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In the Novel: Everyone Breaks Catherine's Heart

Author: nammage from United States
18 July 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

(This review may spoil the novel)

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.

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If you do by chance attempt to watch this movie, stop and read this review before clicking play

Author: correllblair
17 May 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I can't tell if I am naive to the point of a child or such a hopeless romantic as Catherine herself. I never doubted Morris for a second, and I was so taken aback by the last 20ish minutes of the movie that I thought that I had to be watching a new movie. I honestly felt tricked. There were no allusions to his actual intentions until the very end, and by then I was wholeheartedly rooting for them to succeed. By the end, nothing was resolved and I was confused. I don't suggest that I am a genius of reading between the lines, but shouldn't it have been the least bit obvious that he was duping this woman? And how had she not caught on when she was clearly not as weak-minded as her father professed her to be? I'm just a girl who wanted a nice, attractive man to fall in love with an awkward, introspective girl.. Is that too much to ask Henry James? Truthfully, I fell in love with this movie like many other romantic period pieces, (such as Jane Eyre 2010, The Young Victoria, A Royal Affair, The Widow of St.Pierre, The Piano, and P&P 2005) and I literally stayed up until 5 in the morning to finish this movie because I was so enthralled, but the ending killed me. I am writing this review from the grave. Already I am rewriting and editing the ending to fix my own selfish purpose settling my whiplashed mind. Had that scene in the rain ended differently, I would be dreaming soundly in my bed at this early hour instead of writing this review with a heavy heart and bunched up nerves. I give this movie a three for the sake of the beginning, but I am so distraught that a three is all I could muster. Hopefully those interested in a movie of amazing and fresh historical romance and drama will skip the ending and make their own after reading my review.

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The Fruits of Love.

Author: Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico, USA
26 November 2016

First, this is the Henry James story from which "The Hereiss" was made with Olivia De Havilland and Montgomery Clift as the cad. Second, this Washington Square looks nothing like the Washington Square on whose benches I used to sleep in my wanton youth.

In this adaptation, well, the stern Albert Finney is a wealthy 19th-century squire in New York. His beloved wife dies in childhood and what does he get in return? A gauche little piglet, eager to please but unaccomplished. She can't even sing. I can sing. You can sing. But Catherine can't sing. Moreover she gets so anxious she pees on the carpet in front of all the guests. OMG! At least Catherine grows up to be Jennifer Jason Leigh, which is a considerable improvement. As Randolf Scott said about his leading lady in one of his Westerns: "She ain't ugly." However, she's still treated by everyone as an untalented embarrassment to the family.

Except at a dance where she meets the disarming and unspeakably handsome young Morris Townsend, played by Tom Chaplin, and this despite her wearing a dress that everyone -- even her father -- seems to perceive as "hideous." It looked okay to me. I know nothing about women's grooming but at least this appears to be post-Civil War New York because the styles include fulsome ringlets and not those unsightly loaves of hair that used to hang down over a lady's ears. At the same time, and I swear I'm not making this up, she's wearing grapes in her hair like Carravagio's Bacchus. End of comments on grooming.

This charming Morris Townsend -- good family but no job and no money -- devotes a great deal of attention to Catherine. Dad, when not bathing in gold coins, has watched his piglet grow up from childhood, attributes the attention to greed, while the breathless Catherine sees his interest as entirely personal. Townsend's confrontations with Finney lead nowhere. One expresses his love, the other his cynicism.

Albert Finney, as the slyly smiling Dad, doesn't trust Morris Townsend as far as he could toss him. Finney's character is tough-minded, as Henry James' brother William would have put it. He's brilliant at seeing through people and things. He's a good actor too. So is everyone else, even Chaplin, the weakest. But they're professionals enacting roles. They seem to do exactly what their characters would do. Except for Jennifer Jason Leigh who does that but who also brings something special to the role. She looks right: not by any means ugly but no glamour-puss either. Her most fleeting gestures don't just send up the right flag, they introduce peculiarly individual notes. It's not Catherine looking embarrassed and it's not quite Leigh looking embarrassed. Leigh and the scriptwriter have coordinated their efforts and constructed a recognizable personality in Catherine. A fine performance.

The direction is functional and well done. I like the way Agnieszka Holland handles the scenes. The maids in these stories are generally nothing more than background figures scuttling around but here they carry their own personalities. The production design is nicely joined too. The Sloper apartment LOOKS Victorian with all those ferns and potted plants and mirrors and stone-heavy overstuffed furniture. It looks somehow unshakable -- practically eternal.

Finney is unable to shake his daughter from her infatuation and takes her to France for six months as a trial. Then he extends the trip for another six months. "No doubt to one of those lesser countries, densely populated, that civilization has yet to reach," opines Finney's fussy sister, Maggie Smith, who is entirely on the side of the swain. Finney himself is no angel. He thinks so little of his daughter that he can't imagine anyone but a desperate man wanting her for a wife. And he has never forgiven her for her mother's death in childbirth. Leigh has a ten thousand dollar annuity but Finney intends to cut her off from his legacy if she marries Townsend. A conundrum all around.

Townsend has found a job, ugh, and he leaves her for some months of business in New Orleans, promising to return and hoping to find her less distraught at his absence. She begs to be married and go with him but he refuses her. "You think too much of money," she tells him. Angry to the point of honesty, he shouts, "I wanted you for your money! Would you want me without MY attributes?" Good question. Maybe you can live on the fruits of love, maybe not, but can you live on the banana peels?

I don't think I'll describe it but I found the ending confusing. I don't know what was going through either Catherine's head or Townsend's. Henry James considered the novella one of his lesser works. I think I enjoyed "The Heiress" more because of its relative clarity.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Very Henry James

Author: gradyharp from United States
14 September 2010

Henry James' WASHINGTON SQUARE is well served in this solid film whose screenplay was adapted by Carol Doyle and has been directed with secure wisdom of James' style by Polish director Agnieszka Holland )'Europa, Europa', 'Red', 'Blue', 'Copying Beethoven', etc). The musical score is in the capable hands of Jan AP Kaczmarek and the Director of Photography is Jerzy Zielinski, and with all these elements in place, the last ingredient in making this a successful adaptation of a Henry James novel is the cast.

Fortunately the assembled cast matches the above credentials. Albert Finney is superb as the wealthy Dr. Austin Sloper who hoards his money in his mansion on Washington Square and whose overprotective rule of his less than attractive daughter Catherine (Jennifer Jason Leigh) - who is also under the influence of her overbearing Aunt Lavinia (Maggie Smith, still chewing the scenery as usual but convincing) - has put an impasse to Catherine's infatuation with the handsome but poor Morris Townsend (Ben Chaplin): if Catherine should choose to marry Morris she would be cut off as his heiress. James' models of womanhood are played well by Jennifer Garner as the niece that marries and breeds and her mother Aunt Elizabeth (Judith Ivey, currently wowing audiences in a revival of 'The Glass Menagerie'). Distance, imposed by the disapproving Dr. Sloper in escorting Catherine to Europe for a year, doesn't appear to squelch the passion between Catherine and Morris, but Morris finds work which takes him away from the returned Catherine, only to learn upon return that Catherine will not inherit her father's fortune - a glitch that sadly changes the relationship of what had appeared to be a true love romance. In the end the film follows Henry James' view of the world of his time - a palette for social criticism. Made in 1997, this film holds up very well indeed.

Grady Harp

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

No Explanation, No Promises,

Author: Chrysanthepop from Fraggle Rock
26 April 2009

Normally I don't enjoy romantic dramas. There have been some exceptions. I have mixed opinions regarding 'Washington Square'. Starting with the way it 'looks', the interiors and the costumes look very precise to the time but the outdoor sets lack authentic appearance. The extras seem to sleepwalk through the park. The cinematography is too ordinary to have any effect. The movie, at times, moves at a slow pace. I also would have liked to see more development and growth in Catherine after Morris's departure. Instead, here the movie quickly moves from one event to another. Jennifer Jason Leigh might be an odd choice and contrary to others, I thought she did quite a fine job. She may not be physically unattractive (as Catherine is portrayed to be). Actually the lack of makeup show her to be quite a natural beauty but she gets the character right in every other aspect. Albert Finney and Ben Chaplin are good too and Maggie Smith is gold. Judith Ivey too deserves special mention. I liked the music, particularly the song 'sung' by Catherine and Morris by the piano. The dialogues are notable too. Especially the one between Catherine and her father and the one in the final sequence with her and Morris.'Washington Square' makes for a decent one-time watch, mostly because of the performances.

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