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I have watched this movie 4 times and plan to watch it again and again.
Never have i seen such a beautiful and more moving film in my 34 years
on this planet. Gillian Anderson is fantastic as the femme
fatale/heroine. She gives the performance of her life and it sickens me
she got no recognition for her efforts. Her subtle acting and graceful
demeanour make her perfect in this role. Its so hard to get as excited
about the other characters in the movie as she seems to steal every
scene. I am a massive fan of Merchant & Ivory films but this production
just blows them out of the water. Everybody in this film are excellent
- the dialogue is beautifully spoken and the lack of music in it makes
it even more real and lifelike.
I can say only two words to describe this film, and i quote Lily Bart (Gillian Anderson) - " HOW DELICIOUS".
This is such an evocative and moving film. A must see.
In all honestly Davies direction does take some getting used to. No quick editing for him! Yes the pace was slow, it concentrated on the actors faces longer than usual. However I felt this was necessary in order to show the tension of the people and the lethal nature of the words spoken
The cast were wonderful. Stoltz was ideal as Seldon. He was cool and suave and attractive. I also enjoyed Laura Linney as Bertha -she really sold me on being a very nasty woman. The main star, Gillian Anderson, performed with grace, poise and charisma. This woman can convey emotions - just look into her eyes. She does not need to speak to tell you how Lily is feeling. She was mesmerizing. For example, when Lily was flirting with Seldon you somehow could feel her discontent.
Her descent into hell was heartbreaking. One scene, when Lily is at her lowest, will stay with me for a long time. The hopelessness was obvious, as if she was slowly dying. She was beyond caring for anything - and it showed in her eyes - dulled and weary.
Gillian Anderson brought Lily through a myriad of emotions. We loved her, pitied her, wanted to slap her! She was cynical and manipulative, a total flirt and then she fell. The gamut of emotions Anderson went through was incredible and to take the audience with her was a miracle.
This movie leaves an impact. It will not be a blockbuster (too intelligent and too wordy for that.) God forbid should we make an audience pay attention and think in a movie. The movie, unlike most period dramas, really brought home how nasty life was. Vicious and unforgiving to those who did not play the game.
If you can, go and see it. I promise it will be worth it.
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.
Anyone with years of experience making or watching film will recognize
virtuoso work by Terence Davies, his cast and crew here. This admittedly
languorous film rates ten out of ten for me and ranks close to Fanny and
Alexander for its emotional control and depth. Get the DVD! With $8.7
million Terence Davies did what Scorsese could only impersonate with Age
Innocence, and which Merchant and Ivory haven't done for a long time.
has created the suffocating, cosseted and unforgiving social milieu of
York and Tuxedo Park circa 1905-07. The sets, the sense of place, the
stunning cinematography of Remi Adefarasin (Elizabeth), and most of all
Gillian Anderson's virtuoso performance combine with Davies'
seductive pacing and scoring cues to track in loving detail the missed
opportunities and downfall of Lily Bart. Every line Wharton used to
Lily's inner life is there in Anderson's face and in Davies screenplay
direction. If the film feels stiff to younger viewers, it's because it's
deadly accurate socially. That gilded society WAS stiff, unforgiving and
precoccupied with keeping out the nouveau riche. Anyone who has tried to
gain entry to a social register or the DAR might have a easy time
understanding the upper class world of New York in 1905.
I must commend Davies for the risky choices he made in casting Eric Stoltz as Lawrence Selden and Dan Ackroyd as Gus Trenor. Ackroyd's boisterous girth works here because Gus Trenor is both gatekeeper and gatecrasher of this social circle. He and his wife are major forces in deciding who's in and out. Ackroyd is not the deepest actor, but neither is Gus Trenor deep. In fact he's to great degree, a backslapping facade. Despite his wealth and high standing, Trenor is pragmatic and doesn't turn his nose down at courting filthy-rich newcomers desiring social elevation - men like Sim Rosedale (Anthony LaPaglia) - if it means Trenor makes a buck. And yes, Eric Stoltz is not a "convincing" choice for a romantic lead, yet he's perfect for the role of Lawrence Seldon, since Seldon balks repeatedly at being Lily's leading man anyway. The sexual charge and arch, ambivalent fencing between Lily and Lawrence is intensified by something indescribable that happens between Stoltz and Anderson in every scene played between them. I can't figure out why it works, except that these two fine actors "found each other". Stoltz's tenor crispness - his not quite boy, not quite man-ness - adds to his character's elusiveness, cowardice and vulnerability. Finally, Laura Linney is devastating as Lily's reptilian nemesis, Bertha Dorset. For me, she evokes some of Glenn Close's lethal devilishness and charm. It is Lily's sense of propriety, her fine upbringing, that makes her incapable of finishing off Bertha in when she can, and should.
Davies' laser accurate sense of place and character sets House of Mirth apart. He's successfully created the last years of Wharton's treacherous gilded world, when carriages were what fine people still rode and automobiles were considered vulgar. Davies' production designer, art director and set decorator have created sumptuous yet stifling enviroments where Davies and his players can move us back one hundred years into a time we can only imagine and smell when we tour a Vanderbilt Mansion. And he did it without Titanic's budget. It's clear from his commentary that Davies had to repeatedly make do and it sounds like this production was a struggle. All I can say is, limitation is sometimes a fortunate mother. I hope Davies, now 57, will soon be up and running with a new film. I'm suprised to see no new project listed yet. If I were a producer, I'd pounce. This director has the magic. And excuuuse me...! No new projects listed yet for Gillian Anderson?
A short note to the Snatch fans that have dissed this film here: I loved Snatch too, loved it, but where's your freakin' RANGE kiddies? SNATCH and HOUSE OF MIRTH were my TWO FAVORITE films of 2001. Tell ya what. Go back to your videogames and Hollywood spectacles and only comment on classic adult film when you've spent a few more years watching much of the worlds great film literature. If HOM is too slow for you, let your hormones rage for a few more years and come back when you're ready to pay attention to human, not cartoon, reality. Meanwhile, don't drop your smirking, restless, impatient and limited verbiage on films like this one.
Along with Scorsese's, The Age of Innocence and Iain Softley's, The Wings of
the Dove, Terence Davies' The House of Mirth forms a triumvirate of modern
period drama for a discerning audience. Davies is not interested chiefly in
either scenery or costume - that is, in history as a heritage theme-park -
but in the story, its themes and characters, and in teasing out good
performances from his cast. The modest budget of this film works in its
favour. Most of the best scenes and shots are framed in intimacy, not lost
amidst panoramas of superficial grandeur or the shallow aesthetics of
Merchant-Ivory-style film making.
At the heart of Davies' film is Gillian Anderson's brilliant performance as Lilly Bart. Since she is on screen almost all of the time the film really stands or falls by her performance. She sheds her "X-Files" persona in moments and conveys an enormous range of subtle emotions as her character vacillates between an almost involuntary avarice and moral scruples, foolishness, charm, fortune and tragedy. The affect of Anderson's performance is lasting and deep. Indeed, this film lives on long in the memory and continued to trouble me for weeks after I had seen it.
From the moment she steps out of the smoke at a train station, Gillian Anderson is amazing as Lily Bart, a woman torn between being true to herself and securing a place in her world. Althought the movie is set in the early 1900's, her struggle with making a life for herself while surrounded by treacherous friends with their own agendas feels completely relevant. Working from a terrific script, Anderson draws nuance, meaning and emotion from her lines and the circumstances in which she finds herself, as she puts it, "doing the wrong thing at the right time". The journey she took me through in this movie was invigorating, thought provoking, engrossing and ultimately heartbreaking. The supporting cast, including Day Akroyd, Anthony LaPaglia and Terry Kinney, hold their own and fill out the movie beautifully. But Laura Linney deserves special mention as Lily's cunning, manipulative rival posing as a friend. Although very much a period piece, the film goes beyond some of the best pictures of Merchant-Ivory in bringing to life Wharton's novel, presenting a darker movie about the consequences of choices and the cost of guilelessness in a ruthless world. It also pulls Scully out of her basement and into the spotlight where her talents deserve to have her.
This is my favorite of all the Wharton novels adapted for the screen. The
precision and depth with which the director and actors go is absolutely
to the novel in almost every respect.
Gillian Anderson is a revalation here, she perfectly captures the repression and pain of being a woman stuck in that time and place with no way out. You can feel her pain and torment in every quivering close up, and the passion contained in her kissing scenes (or to be more precise, her NON kissing- kissing scene) with Eric Stoltz is something to behold.
Eric Stoltz is equally amazing in one of the most complex and difficult roles for a man to play. I must disagree with the viewer from China, Mr. Seldon is NOT meant to be terribly "masculine" or "deep voiced" or "unbearably handsome"- those are modern readings that perhaps we expect from the role of the 'male hero' in modern films- but here Mr. Selden is written exactly as he is played- walking a fine line between what is correct behaviour for the time, and what he was or wasn't allowed to do in regards to her rescue. He is torn by love of Lilly Bart and the realization that he is not the right man for her, as the all important social scene would frown on their union. The actor portrays this ambiguity perfectly, and I for one found it a relief that the man didn't ride in and save the day in that cliched movie way.
I also must commend the supporting players of Anthony LaPaglia (whose role "Sim Rosedale" is originally written as a Jewish man, one of the few changes made to the n script adaption of the novel) and Laura Linney as Bertha Dorset, the 'bad girl' of the story. They both bring a life to the story that is rare to see in a period film, most actors seem to be too afraid or respectful of the material to really bring it to life.
I even enjoyed Dan Ackyroyd in a role that I didn't see him in or expect to like him in. I suppose my feelings about him are coloured by old Saturday Night Live shows, or Driving Miss Daisy, but I think he was terrific in a role that is not the most explored in the novel or the film.
Everything about this film held my interest and moved me, and I'm a very tough audience as far as Wharton goes. The pacing is indeed slow, but if you give yourself over to it it is like taking a warm bath in a quick shower world.
Very well done!
Being a fan of both period pieces and Gillian Anderson I was greatly
forward to the premier of this movie, and I was not disappointed. House of
Mirth is a gorgeous looking film, full of color, style and history. The
costumes and locales are worth the price of admission, and it doesn't hurt
that the story is both compelling and dramatic. The cast did a great job
bringing these characters to life, and creating sympathy in main character
Lily. Great acting all around, Laura Linney was fantastic in a diabolical
role, and Eric Stoltz actually made me cry right there in the
Kudos to all.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The story that this film is based upon is almost unbearably tragic and as the film is a reasonably literal adaptation of it then prepare yourself accordingly. Though it seems there is no relief from suffering for Lily Bart once she starts her tragic descent to say that this film is an unrelenting grievefest would be unfair. The film is basically divided into two halves and the first half showing a somewhat frivolous Lily amongst her many suitors contains many upbeat moments and is peppered by some witty exchanges between the characters. The second half of the film is very effectively introduced by the kind of long tracking shot that Terence Davies is renowned for as the action shifts from America to Monte Carlo and Lily's descent becomes the main focus of the movie. One thing that is very obvious about the film is the almost total lack of incidental music. Everything is driven by dialogue and the subtle interactions of the characters. The lack of music creates many moments of silence (or near silence with ticking clocks, etc) and this gives the film a hermetic quality which may not be to everyone's taste. A certain claustrophobic feel is not unknown in Davies' films but the lack of music is a new departure. Another feature about the film is the emotional restraint required of the characters, particularly Lily who despite undergoing grievous torments does not break down until close to the conclusion. Fortunately, Gillian Anderson proves to be perfect for this sort of role. The nuances she brings to her character, with an unending variety of subtle expressions and delicate movements of the eyes, allow us to see how Lily is repressing the emotions and passions within her, until it is far too late. Only the most hard-hearted could fail to be moved by her performance and it is in the middle part of the film, where the compromises she endures start to chip away at her frivolity, where she truly begins to shine. Other performances are suitably accomplished, particularly Laura Linney as the sinister Bertha Dorset who is central to Lily's downfall. Davies' insistence on a literal and austere interpretation, in part due to the miniscule budget, may mean that this film is not geared up for being a mass-market vehicle. Those whose idea of a period drama comes from watching Gwyneth Paltrow may find the genuine authenticity that House of Mirth supplies, with it's clipped accents and formal constraints of behaviour, a little too hard to take, though I find Davies' interpretation far preferable to that of others in the genre.
House of Mirth is a richly painted tapestry of a piece of early American
Society all but unrecognizable to most Americans. It's a great story and
great looking, but the real surprise in Terence Davies' adaptation of Edith
Wharton's novel is how deftly Gillian Anderson among others manages to
gracefully convey the stilted rigors of the period language. The film is
largely about the traps and deceits verbal gamesmanship and class
one-upsmanship. It is a deadly and vicious internal warfare that goes on
with the upper class bourgeois in New York City in the early 20th century.
The price one pays particularly that a woman pays for straying too far
from the unwritten laws of that society can be severe. Lillie Bart's flaw is
not really in her indiscretions, but in her inability to compromise at the
right time. Her timing is fatally flawed. That the film is so relentlessly
tragic, really takes the viewer by surprise, partly because Anderson gives
her character such spunk and vivaciousness that you find yourself surprised
by the endless bad luck that she brings on herself. Anderson's remarkable
beauty, poise as an actress, facility with the dialogue, in my mind, bring
her to a whole new level as an actress.
It is also wonderfully cinematic. There are rich colors and textures, beautifully framed scenes, marvellous costumes. Though steeped in tragedy and melodrama, you'll find yourself so swept away in this world that it will seem centuries and not merely decades removed from our time. Perhaps this is why the titles at the beginning and at the end are `New York 1914' you need this reminder by the end.
With a host of good performances and a rich sense of place you will get emotionally and imaginatively swept up in this world. Just be prepared for the landing.
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