On a rainy London night in 1946, novelist Maurice Bendrix has a chance meeting with Henry Miles, husband of his ex-mistress Sarah, who abruptly ended their affair two years before. ... See full summary »
An impoverished woman who has been forced to choose between a privileged life with her wealthy aunt and her journalist lover, befriends an American heiress. When she discovers the heiress is attracted to her own lover and is dying, she sees a chance to have both the privileged life she cannot give up and the lover she cannot live without.
Helena Bonham Carter,
Terence Davies' The House of Mirth is a tragic love story set against a background of wealth and social hypocrisy in turn of the century New York. Lily Bart is a ravishing socialite at the height of her success who quickly discovers the precariousness of her position when her beauty and charm start attracting unwelcome interest and jealousy. Torn between her heart and her head, Lilly always seems to do the right thing at the wrong time. She seeks a wealthy husband and in trying to conform to social expectations, she misses her chance for real love with Lawrence Selden. Written by
Director Terence Davies whenever possible used actual period dresses - some so fragile with age that they ripped off of the actresses during scenes - and period corsets, which caused some of the actresses great pain but made them understand better the constraints put on women of the period. See more »
The film, which takes place during 1905-07, depicts several characters attending a performance of the opera "Cosi fan tutte" - but that opera was first performed in New York in 1922. See more »
Reviews of this movie seem to fall into few categories, loved it because of Gillian Anderson, loved it because of the book, loved it because it was dreamy, hated it because I just didn't get it, hated it because of Gillian Anderson, hated it because it wasn't the book, hated it because it had no Arnie and wasn't Armageddon.
If you can't follow Edwardian English, if you can't follow a movie with scene shifts without a subtitle that says "you are now in London", "You are now in New York", if you can't read emotions off of actor's faces even when their words contradict their feelings, well, you're going to hate this movie. If you need a driving soundtrack to tell you exactly what mood you're supposed to be feeling for each scene, you're going to hate this movie. If you can't accept the fact that flawed characters develop but don't always overcome in the end, you're going to hate this movie.
OK, now that the summer action flic viewers have stopped reading this review in disgust (just as they left this movie early), we can get on with the review. I think Gillian Anderson was a good pick for the part, and did a very good, if not quite excellent performance. Part of Guilded Age/Edwardian upper-crust behaviour was the semblance of civility under the most trying of circumstances, such as saying "Thank You" when you've just been fired or otherwise dissed. Add that to the stylized English and you end up having to PAY ATTENTION to understand what is going on to get it.
One of the brilliant aspects of casting is the Gillian Anderson pick. Instead of a brilliant blonde or smouldering brunette, you have a non-conventional look (short, voluptuos and red-headed) that jolts (and excites) the modern eye, but actually better fit in to the pre-Chanel standard of beauty of that time.
At its heart the novel is a morality tale, describing the pitfalls of being beautiful, manipulative and shallow while failing to be cunning and wise. Lily Bart is callous to her suitors at first, only to fall into multiple social traps. In the end she relies solely on her integrity and dignity, which is insufficient to extricate her from her circumstances. This may offend many who expect the heroine to prevail in the end due to a simple basic morality (which is there in Lily), perseverance (which is also there), a clever plot twist and a 40mm grenade launcher (both missing).
Lavish sets, beautiful backdrops, gorgeous costumes, good acting (with the possible exception of Akroyd), all make this a surreal, if sad, journey for the cognitively aware and patient. I say "possible exception" because of one subtext of the novel & movie is the interplay of the American Nuveau Riche and the old nobility of England and Europe. Thus the wealthy American Entrepeneurs are depicted as brutish and obvious, though this is tolerated in society because their path was already blazed in the 1890's by the first wave of gold miners, oil drillers and electric company tycoons that swept through Europe and married into storied, if not monies, bloodlines. Thus, Akroyd's blatant and crude manipulations and language are somewhat justified.
But, if you don't like period pieces, costume dramas, and identifying with wealthy people who have never worked a day in their lives, all this will be lost on you.
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