The Magnificent Ambersons (TV Movie 2002) Poster

(2002 TV Movie)

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Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is amazing.
valky22 January 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Any time that A&E makes any minisieries, I am very curious because the company makes really great things. Well, I've now seen "The Magnificent Ambersons" two and a half time. It's wonderful. Every character is fully dimensional. It's a new trend I've noticed that not too many films are picking up on, but the dimensionality of characters adds to the richness of the film. There isn't one character that you don't both like and also get irritated with. I am especially impressed with Tilly's performance as Aunt Fanny. I enjoyed Fanny because she was such a person; irrational, concerned, and nosy. Amazing. Madelein Stowe is a favorite actress.

But the real reason to see this film is for Jonathan Rhys-Meyers' performance. As Georgy, Rhys-Meyers could have easily played a cold snob unattached to anyone. But he doesn't. Rhys-Meyers' George is cold, but he's also vulnerable. He's bold, but he has so many moments where he relates to everyone he deals with in either a friendly manner or otherwise. Even when throwing out his mother's boyfriend, there is cold assurance in his eyes, but only someone with something to hide can act so rigid. He makes a safe transformation in the moments after his mother's death. Maybe it's too sudden, but nevertheless it's convincing.
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Third time's the charm?
plamya-18 July 2007
I'd always heard that "The Magnificent Ambersons" was Orson Welles' masterpiece, but had never seen it until I got the two versions out of the public library. Now I'm even MORE curious about both the novel and Welles' screenplay. Welles' may have been ahead of his time cinematically, but the current version lacks bite largely because the storyline is outdated.

Lacking a narrative voice-over, the remake presents events and motivations more clearly through visuals and dialogue. I thought the new casting was near-perfect in terms of character types, and the settings were visually stunning. In th A&E version the viewer comes to mourn the loss of old- time aristocratic splendor, which in the Welles' version has a vaguely Gothic feel. Both versions, however, fail to absorb the viewer emotionally completely. Georgie definitely deserves a comeuppance, but neither version carries the full impact or allows the characters to grow to tragic stature.
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I liked it
rosalindr15 May 2005
I thought Jonathan Rhys Meyers performance as the snobbish, bullying, insecure Georgie was great. This guy bases his whole life on being the scion of a wealthy, upper crust family. When his family status drops, Georgie must find himself to escape from his arrogant dependence on his family name.

I found the romance between Bruce Greenwood and Madeline Stowe somewhat tepid. Stowe looked old, and hardly the radiant beauty that Greenwood remembers. However the critics who say that Georgie shouldn't have been able to break up his mother's romance don't understand the social climate of the time period.

The turn of the 19th to the 20th Century was an interesting time in America. Tarkington's book is about the changing social order, by showing the rise of self-made men over old money and lineage. I thought that was done very well in this production, but based on the other comments I appear to be in the minority.
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A Stand Alone
wordsmith_5712 January 2008
Not having read the book, nor having viewed the original Welles version, I watched The Magnificent Ambersons based on it being a period piece. I was also slightly intrigued that it was supposed to be a remake of what is considered a Welles classic. I watched the movie and found it stood well on its own. I was surprised to find it aired in 2002, as it is avant garde in form and has a fresh creativity, and even a daring in its approach that I would expect only of more recent films. The assembled cast is brilliant: Bruce Greenwood is the upbeat, returned prodigal, accompanied by his equally winsome daughter Gretchen Mol; James Cromwell is the patriarch, and Madeline Stowe is the many layered woman torn between her old flame and her ever present love for her son, Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Jennifer Tilly as the spinster aunt adds to the ensemble quite nicely. This was at times painful to watch, since Rhys Meyers's character, George, is so absolutely obnoxious in his arrogance, but this is can be overlooked as George's behavior and personality is what makes the piece tick. Some have criticized Rhys Meyers, yet I found it a very convincing performance. As the uncle put it, "Georgy, I've always been fond of you, but I haven't always liked you." I couldn't stand George, yet there was something that almost made me root from him. A long movie, 150 minutes; however, good acting,creative filming, and a fascinating plot make it worthwhile viewing.
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Finally a coherent film version of the Tarkington classic
philip-131 January 2004
Let's face it; Orson Welles's movie of The Magnificent Ambersons is a magnificent mess through no fault of its highly regarded director. Cut and edited to pieces by studio hacks (Robert Wise!!!) with the excised material now lost, the movie exists as a mere torso rather than a whole experience. So much is missing, that the movie is hard to follow unless you've read the book. The movie is certainly not what Welles wanted and it is unrepairable; a great tragedy in film history.

The new version on A&E may not have Welles's unique directorial ability or atmospheric lighting in black and white, but it does tell Tarkington's story coherently and on the whole, quite successfully. Director Alfonso Arau has purposely avoided the look of the Welles film, opting for a rich, epic color palette. The art direction is beautiful and you really get a flavor of turn of the century midwest American life.

Many reviewers have complained of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers performance of George. Frankly it is a brave and quite accurate portrayal. Tim Holt in the Welles film was hopelessly too mature looking to play Tarkington's headstrong brat. Georgie is not a very sympathetic character in the book and Rhys-Meyers studiously avoids turning him into the bland leading man that Welles allowed Holt to portray. Those that take issue with Rhys-Meyers don't know the book. He is the right age and certainly the right look for this difficult character. He is a dynamic actor that isn't afraid to be true to a character's inate nature. He's not easy to take at times, but Georgie isn't either!

Many have also criticized Jennifer Tilly's Fanny as not being the equal of Agnes Moorehead. Again, Tilly is closer to the book. Fanny is a hapless character which Tilly invests with a wonderful degree of humanity coupled with her unique brand of eccentricity. Moorehead had not not an ounce of charm and frankly was miscast. Madeleine Stowe, James Cromwell, and Bruce Greenwood are all excellent as are the supporting players.

Is this the ultimate version of this classic. Of course not. It is, however, a well made, BBC style television movie that is very true to Tarkington's novel and tells the story clearly, unapologetically and with some amount of panache. I give it an enthusiastic recommendation.
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American Tragedy
RodReels-219 January 2002
I feel like I have to comment on this movie because of the rather indefensible comments of several reviewers. "The Magnificent Ambersons" is one of the great American tragedies; and its translation to the screen still remains a tragedy. I thought this A&E version was a lovely attempt although as Madeleine Stowe reportedly said before the production aired, they still didn't do it justice. If my understanding is correct, they were working from Orson Welles' original script which he was not allowed to bring to the screen in 1942. The tragedy of this production is that it is never quite as great as that flawed 1942 version, and so the informed viewer is left wondering what it would have been like to see Agnes Moorehead and Joseph Cotten play the final tragic scenes instead of Jennifer Tilly and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. I didn't think either Tilly or Meyers were particularly perfect for the parts; but they were neither as bad as many reviewers make them out to be nor as great as I remember Moorehead and Cotten to have been. So watch both screen versions, combine the two in your head, and you'll have one of the greatest movies never made.
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Misguided Adaptation
Shane James Bordas29 June 2006
If you are a fan of Orson Welles, I have only one word of advice for you: avoid. This is a truly dire and misguided attempt to 'correct' Welles' masterpiece by including passages from Booth Tarkington's novel to make up for the long lost sequences cut by RKO in the 1940's. What the filmmakers have overlooked, however, is to include modern equivalents for the innovative direction, lighting and great performances that make the original version (even in its forever truncated form) one of the most eminent masterworks in American cinema. Although I will refrain from going into length here about its many shortcomings, the main detraction (even for curiosity's sake) is the (mis)casting of the wooden Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as George Amberson Miniver. No match for the wonderful Tim Holt, Rhys-Meyers pouts and whines his way through the film with seemingly no understanding of what the story is about or is trying to convey. Taking the shallowness and pomp of the character too literally, this vanity performance shows no inner life and, as a result, the character arc is practically nil. For those of you who want some idea of what Welles had originally shown that ungrateful audience in Pamona, track down a copy of Peter Bogdanovich's book-length interview with Orson ('This Is Orson Welles') and refer to the appendix which contains stills and script pages that reconstruct the missing scenes. Beware though, it just might make you cry.
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Truly monstrous!
Roy A Fowler14 March 2002
Poor OW, spinning like crazy in his grave. This "remake" is quite terrible, misguided, inept, badly acted, directed and shot, and is NOT the original Welles/Mercury script. Where, for instance, are Welles' elegaic prologue and voice-overs? And Stanley Cortez impreccable visualization? Presumptuous, insulting rubbish. Away with it!
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Magnificent Myers
Starlla34_9823 February 2002
I went back and watched this movie for a 3rd time. I do not see anything bad to comment on about it. Rubbish it's not. I see a truly unique film here. It is rather odd which I enjoy. And, JRM, portrays characters like Georgie to perfection. The whole cast played their parts well. As I mentioned before nothing is perfect in any film, but Myers is in his role here. His character really angered me at times, but hey isn't that what a movie is suppose to do? Evoke our emotions? I loved the movie. Worth watching 3 times.
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RKO ruined the orignal Orson Welles screenplay and turned what could have been a masterpiece (surpassing even "Citizen Kane") into an above-average flick. Its great photography and super
dennis414 January 2002
A disgraceful disservice to the memory of the creator of "Citizen Kane."

RKO executives mangled the original Orson Welles masterpiece, leaving in its place a very flawed but interesting work with trend-setting photography and a roster of superb performances. But the numerous plotholes sank it at the box office.

I had high hopes that the A&E mini-series might be able to capture some of the promise of Welles' vision. Instead of filling in the story gaps intelligently, this version drags in some sly Freudian references with mommy/son (GASP!) bedroom monkeyshines to explain the still-inexplicable behavior of scion George.

Making matters much, much worse is the hysterical, bug- eyed hamming of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers in the central role. Not much better is a very silly Jennifer Tilly as Aunt Fanny, a meaty role which earned Agnes Moorehead an Academy Award nomination.

This misbegotten, three-hour mess is a disaster for all concerned--especially the audience. And WHAT was with that insane snow-dance with the umbrellas?
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Staggeringly bad TV movie is an insult to Tarkington & to Welles
fwmurnau24 November 2012
This clumsy catastrophe is NOT made from Orson Welles' screenplay for his genius 1942 version, though it uses bits of it. The creators of this remake do everything wrong. The unforgettable prologue and narration are dropped entirely, important scenes are cut to make room for stupid new ones, others are shuffled and rewritten so they no longer make sense, and banal, foolish dialog is added.

Tarkington's story is deeply grounded in a particular time and place: a century ago in the American midwest. Welles, a midwesterner born in 1915, knew the place and the people well. This version's Mexican director, Alfonso Arau, shows so little understanding of his characters and story, you wonder if he's ever met an American.

Arau's choice of an isolated Irish country house to stand in for the Ambersons' urban mansion, located near the downtown of a city based on Tarkington's native Indianapolis, shows how clueless he is. That's like filming HUCKLEBERRY FINN in Vienna, with the Danube as the Mississippi.

Every choice is as wrong as the mansion. There is no sense of place or period. All of the leads are grossly miscast. The speech, the manners, the attitudes, the tone, the bad acting, the cheap suggestions of incest ... nothing in this remake rings true.

For George Minafer, the most American of protagonists, Arau weirdly goes to Ireland again, casting the amateurish Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who overacts like crazy in a phony, inappropriately-contemporary accent. Where Tim Holt was subtle and low-key, Rhys Meyers shouts, leaps about, and twists his pretty lips into sneers and scowls worthy of a circus clown.

Granted, the 1942 cast was perfection. Arau's casting makes you wonder what he was smoking. Madeleine Stowe is nothing like Isabel, but she comes off better than most of the others. Morgan is the bland Bruce Greenwood, whose wrongness reminds one how profoundly sensitive and right Joseph Cotton was in the part. Major Amberson looks and talks like an ex-hippie; and the frail, sexless Wilbur is played by a handsome, hearty actor who has way more sex appeal than Greenwood, which makes nonsense of the love triangle.

In the crucial role of Fanny -- the prim, plain-faced, repressed spinster aunt -- Arau casts (I am not making this up!) the vulgar, sexy Jennifer Tilly. Agnes Moorhead, heartbreakingly memorable in the Welles version, is rolling in her grave.

When Arau tries to get arty, he falls right on his face ... turning George's birth into a 1960s acid trip and adding an absurd scene to the ball sequence, where Morgan waltzes with Isabel in the snow while two butlers try to hold parasols over their heads. This sub-Fellini touch is so idiotic, like much of the movie, it becomes unintentionally funny.

Blunder piles on blunder. Isabel, Fanny, and George all appear to have collagen-injected lips, which sums up director Arau's apparent belief that Indiana in 1900 was exactly like Beverly Hills today. The dancers at the ball do the tango (!) as if the story's set in Buenos Aires. Nothing here seems to be happening in the United States, let alone Indiana.

If you know the novel or Welles' flawless, if studio-mangled, adaptation, you will shake your head in amazement: how could this remake turn such wonderful material into such an embarrassing train wreck for all concerned?

PLEASE don't let this inept, tone-deaf mess be your only acquaintance with THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS. See the brilliantly written and directed, perfectly acted Welles version or read Tarkington's masterful Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
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Quite simply: an atrocity
tentender15 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
...and most atrocious? The DVD package's false advertising: "After 60 years, Welles' (sic) has finally been realized." In a pig's eye. "Using the original shooting script, director Alfonso Arau...has re-filmed every scene according to Welles' (sic) directions." (The possessive of "Welles" is "Welles's," not "Welles'". Cheez.) And yet somehow without reference to either that script or those directions. Scenes are shuffled irrationally, others are missing, banal dialogue is added, there is an omnipresent, banal, and thoroughly unhelpful musical score, and the consistently perverse, absurd casting is compounded by equally consistent pathetically obvious bad acting. It is hard to say who is worst, but Jonathan Rhys Meyers is certainly the most insufferable, with his perfect and perfectly awful American accent, his ugly pouty face, and his complete lack of nuance. Jennifer Tilly -- an actress who, like Meyers, has done excellent work with Woody Allen -- is so lacking in any of the depth that Agnes Moorehead brought to the same role that -- well, it is criminal. Almost everyone in this has done better work -- but in contemporary material. (I needn't name names, EVERYONE is terrible... though the actor playing the 19-year-old Fred Kinney is handsome and has no chance to do any bad acting. He gets my vote. Also uncredited in the IMDb cast list!...Oh, alright: I will admit that Bruce Greenwood, Gretchen Mol, Dina Merrill and David Gilliam at least do play as though that had seen Welles's masterpiece and have some respect for it. But what can you do with direction like this???) No one seems to have even the vaguest notion that looks, behavior ... LIFE, was any different a hundred years and more ago from what it is today. Which difference, unfortunately, happens to be the very subject matter of Booth Tarkington's thoughtful, beautiful novel on which this horror is based. Both script adaptation and direction have proceeded with no sense whatever of what is most touching about the source material and the Welles film: their discretion. Compare the famous scene in which George learns that Fanny is penniless. The Welles version (and the superb acting by Agnes Moorehead and Tim Holt) is about the inability to tell the worst until there is no getting round it. The TV version is all about throwing plates and screaming. I will leave it to you to decide which is more effective. The suggestion of incestuous desire between Isabel and George is as loathsome as it is ridiculous. George's screams after the car accident: compare the absolute silence of George in the Welles film.

By all means read the book, watch the Welles picture (a very model of adaptation from novel to screen), then watch this only if you want to experience genuine aesthetic pain.

Why my comment is not ordered "worst" is beyond me. I could not be more disdainful of this hideous travesty.
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Magnificent, Indeed!
Starlla34_9813 February 2002
Everyone has their own opinions, tastes, etc., that is why we have this place to speak out - thanks IMDB! I loved the movie. It wasn't perfect, but what is in our era? It was different, pushing the edge with that I wonder about Georgie's love for his mommie stuff, and all the actresses, and actors were great. The costumes, the scenery, and oh that lovely dancing scene in the snow, just beautiful. This movie was oddly refreshing. I haven't read the story or seen the first version, and I don't think I want to, but this movie is right up my alley. I truly enjoyed it.
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Good story and some good performances can't hide one essential weakness
BobLib20 January 2002
***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** Make no mistake, there is much to like in this remake of the classic Booth Tarkington story of the rise and fall of a powerful turn-of-the-last-century mid-western family and Orson Welles' classic film thereof. The scenery is some of the most beautiful seen in a made-for-TV film. The camera-work, in general, is outstanding. And there are some fine performances. Madeleine Stowe and Bruce Greenwood convey believability as the two lovers reunited after so many years, Gretchen Mol makes a fetching Lucy Morgan, William Hootkins (That's Lieutenant Eckhardt for you "Batman" fans.), rivets your attention every step of the way with his bluff, hearty Uncle George, and James Cromwell brings his usual understated warmth to clan patriarch Major Amberson. And the overall production his the usual A&E understated glitz.

So much for the good.

Now, it's an old maxim in the entertainment world that, if you don't have a lead who generates even a little sympathy, the audience you hope to reach won't respond as hoped. In other words, they ain't gonna like your movie. And there's the rub: Jonathan Rhys-Myers not only overplays George Amberson to an almost comic degree, but plays him as such a spoiled, unsympathetic little creep that you almost want to give him a bust in the mouth on general principles. Nowhere, not even in the scenes of his supposed reformation, does he ever generate sympathy of any kind. In Welles' excellent 1942 film, Tim Holt played George Amberson as a rich brat, but he was, at least, a vaguely sympathetic rich brat. Now, granted, Holt wasn't much of an actor, but, at least, his understated approach was far better than Rhys-Meyers' overplaying. All that was missing from the latter's interpretation was a top hat, cape, and handlebar mustache. This is what Snidely Whiplash must have been like as a kid!

In other words, you could do worse that the 2002 "Magnificent Ambersons," but you could do much better, too.

Like renting the far superior 1942 original, for example, which does a better job in half the time.
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Jonathan Rhys-Meyers' portrayal of George Minafer
nankipoo4 February 2002
In response to those defenders of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers' portrayal of George Minafer in A&E's "Magnificent Ambersons", I can only say that watching JRM in this role is just plain painful. I suppose the director gets to share responsibility with his leading man, but at what point do we just chalk this up to a bad job? All actors and actresses have "off" films. Perhaps this is that "bad day at the office" for JRM. What he's done before, or will do in the future has little bearing here. This role calls for a subtlety that did not show up in Rhys-Meyers' performance. Calling this an "interpretation" makes intelligent film lovers scratch their heads; and I believe even the professional critics had problems with this bizarre display. This "Ambersons" is destined for the ash heap, unfortunately.
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In Defense of Jonathan Rhys-Myers
Ignacio Martinez-Ybor31 January 2002
Perhaps "Magnificent Ambersons" should have been left undisturbed in its first screen adaptation. A&E certainly does not have the integrity or vision of, say, HBO, to undertake the kind of "restorative" project this billed itself to be. Their invariably insensitive and consistently maladroit placement of commercial breaks during their "fine arts" programming alone merits eternal damnation. In this instance, in spite of all the hype, there was no reason to expect anything of worth from them. (Let's not forget that Pride and Prejudice wasn't really theirs).

Reading through the reviews posted I feel compelled to defend Jonathan Rhys-Myers as an actor. He is a very fine one, and has given many compelling performances, e.g., Gormenghast, Velvet Goldmine, Ride with the Devil, The Governess, etc. Much can be expected from him. Perhaps he needed a stronger guiding hand in Ambersons. Let us not forget that a task of the director is to ensure performances play off well within context..... there are dailies where certain things should leap as obvious. This does not invalidate JR-M's obviously controversial interpretation, but it does definitely place blame on the director for allowing incongruity of such high order.

Jonathan is a talented man. This movie is but a blip.
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Interesting originally, if slightly disappointing...but getting much better with time (updated 8-3-08)
rsgre19 October 2005
I had to watch this twice before I could finally settle down and enjoy it calmly. The first time I was so disappointed because it didn't begin the same lovely way that the novel & Wells's film did: with that wonderful sentimental prologue of the fashions and the times gone by. (And I would like to know...why didn't it? Is it a tribute to Wells that they didn't feel talented or inspired enough to "pull it off"?)

The second time around I "got over that", and managed to keep an open mind. Overall, it was alright, but somewhat stiff and cold. Did they ever consider using at least some of Bernard Herrmann's inspired score? Because the music used was definitely not memorable.

Maybe in the end, this makes a better novel than a film; and maybe it was a mistake for Orson Wells to attempt to film it in the first place. As a free TV movie I give it a 7+.

It was interesting to see the scenes that were cut in the Wells's film, and the original ending that Tarkington wrote. Much more coherent overall. They made Aunt Fanny more intense than the Wells's version. Apparently, the 1942 preview audience laughed at her hysterics, so some of her scenes had to be re-shot. The farewell walk between George & Lucy was especially well done, and actually better than the Wells's version. Suffers from the apparent overseas location (Ireland). We are obviously not in the Midwest!

(Update 8-3-08) Took another look today, much better this time around (a 9). Part of the problem is that us old timers still want to hold on to the myth that Orson Welles's version was a masterpiece...which in reality it wasn't. One thing you do notice is what a dry, quaint tale it really is. More of a "little old lady story" of wayward youth and ultimate redemption, mixed with the changing times of 100 years ago. Very good this time around...enjoyed it a lot...good production values and acting. How could I have been so blind the first times around? Surpasses Welles's version by a mile...!

(Update 10-7-17) It occurred to me after all these years that where this production got into problems was by claiming "it was based on a screenplay by Orson Welles". By saying that a lot of Welles fans expected a verbatim reproduction including the third person narrator and the prelude. Instead they skipped that altogether much to a lot of people's initial disappointment. Once you get over that, like I did the second time around, I enjoyed it very much and came to like it a lot.
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The Completed Magnificent Ambersons
theowinthrop26 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This version appeared on television three years ago, and was supposedly based on Welles' completed script. It got roasted by the television critics (probably unfairly) because it wasn't directed by Welles - lacking his great narration and touches. But it is not a bad film, and it does have a coherence that the other film lacks because of the truncated cutting.

The only thing I disagree with is the emphasis on Welles' script. Welles planned to close the film on a down note with Lucy rejecting a crippled George, and Fanny living in a boarding house as the cook. This is not like the television version where an unrepentant, still arrogant George has to be accepted by Eugene as his son-in-law.

But it was well acted and directed, and if not as great as Welles' work, it was entertaining and thoughtful. It also explained some of the problems linked to the plot that the truncated version did not go into. For one, why the collapse of the Major's fortune? The Major (John Cromwell) has to sell off his property to support Isabel and George (Madeleine Stowe and Jonathan Rhys - Meyers) on their prolonged trip to Europe. Don't forget, Georgie never had plans for a career, and he is depended on money from grandpa. As Cromwell says, "Does he think I'm made of money?" It also has the real moment of comeuppance that is not found in the Welles' version (in so outwardly a manifestation). George can accept the loss of outward possession, because he knows who he is and what his family was like. But he sees a book on sale in a local bookshop about the first families of Indianapolis. He sees it's expensive, but he buys a copy. He is shocked to find no mention of the Ambersons in the entire book. He is a little less arrogant after that.

No, it is not the controversial classic of 1942, but it is - on it's own terms - a worthy film version too.
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If you liked the book, you'll despise this.
imdb-46719 October 2004
Of course, even watching the Wells' version was like watching a completely different story than the actual Tarkington novel. The novel is so full of subtlety and nuance (and narration) that I suppose it would be hard for any film to capture it. But this TV flick seems to have been bourne out of some sort of bizarre class called Freud 101. A protective son, yes, but incestuous overtones??? By the way, where is the Midwest? It may have been an affluent family, but early-20th century Indianapolis bore no resemblance to this. Misty moors? Grand hilltop vistas? It's the Midwest for crying out loud! There were wooded estates then as now, but the book is rather specific in describing very public homes that were not removed from the peering eyes of the masses. It was kind of a main point.

Now, if one were to simply avoid comparison with the book, I suppose it could have worked rather nicely as a Lifetime/Harlequin movie. The settings, scenes, and costumes were all rather pleasant in an escapist way.
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A good A&E pictures movie about a wealthy 19th century American family.
VENEZIADOGE14 January 2002
The Magnificent Ambersons is one in a long line of A&E TV movies that have been done well, to very well. The cast including James Cromwell is impressive and essentially makes the movie. The acting, with the exception of Cromwell, is a bit sophomoric at times, but overall is very good.

The movie's theme is a bit like a Dickensian novel with the son, and his journey through life as the focus. It story plays off of the character traits of the family members, and how they impact this well-entrenched and highly interdependent family. It follows like a Dickens story from start to finish, with the very best traits of the protagonists being shown in the end, even if not apparent at first. It also had some elements of Titanic in it, in that it showed America's Gilded Age, and some new technologies that were transforming the nation. The scenery is excellent and is accurate of the late 1800s through early 1900s.

The cast is really what makes this version of The Magnificent Ambersons. The directing is good as well, and brings out the best of the story. I would give it a 4 out of 5 for TV movies.
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A near miss.
nankipoo14 January 2002
Re-making a so-called flawed masterpiece must be a very daunting task. For anyone who's seen the original 1942 version, I'd have to believe that this 2002 attempt is a mixed bag, at best. Technically, it's a pleasure to look at: the time periods are represented beautifully; the costumes and sets are perfect; and many of the memorable scenes are recreated word-for-word. But when you get down to the acting, different things begin to happen. Madeleine Stowe and James Cromwell are adequate in their roles, as is William Hootkins. Bruce Greenwood and Gretchen Mol fare much better, in my opinion, bringing real depth to their characters. I'm sorry to say that Jennifer Tilly as Aunt Fanny and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as George Minifer are so overdrawn that I had difficulty caring about them at all. George is so cold and calculating in this version that his character is almost one-dimensional, the same for Tilly's Aunt Fanny, and it hurts to state it, because I dearly love the story of the Ambersons. The '42 version, "flawed" as it supposedly is, has pure magic in it, from its unusual editing, its excellent cast, and its Wellesian pacing and dialog. I'm not so sure we needed an updated view of the Ambersons. 5 out of 10
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msterman19 January 2002
Best advice - see the 1942 Orson Welles version instead. The acting was terrible (I'm being kind). Sometimes I felt that the actors thought they were on a stage rather than doing a movie. "George" and "Aunt Fanny" were the worst offenders - they did some serious over-acting. "Aunt Fanny's" Melanie Griffith-type voice was annoying and half the time I couldn't understand what she was saying. Skip it - or watch it AFTER seeing the 1942 version.
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TomBRIDE217 December 2007
The idea of redoing a classic movie is an intriguing one and the idea of doing one that allegedly got chopped by unfeeling studio hands, such as purportedly happened to Orson Welles and his version of this, is provocative, especially if they say are actually going to shoot from the original precut screenplay. At first, things seem promising and there are some fine actors doing some interesting things, and the production is handsome. But I could not figure out why I was not enjoying what was obviously a well- intentioned and lavish production. Then it dawned on me -- Rhys-Meyers performance was not simply of an unpleasant character, but a callow-seeming actor frowning and grimacing his way through an entire movie -- poisoning the drama at its core. It is truly the most painfully misconceived performance I can ever recall seeing in a major serious movie. It sinks the entire enterprise. The casting director and overall director must take responsibility. How could they not see at least halfway through the shooting of this that Rhys-Meyers work was an empty annoying hole at the center. Was he cast a a personal favor to someone? It seems inexplicable.
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awful acting
fred8 March 2006
Rented this movie online reading it was using Welles' original screenplay, thinking it was his directors' cut. Got it and learned it was an A&E remake for cable TV. Have not seen original, but watched this one anyway, and the acting was truly awful. The dude playing the grandson George was over the top and since his character is in almost every scene, it made watching this painful. There are few movies I won't sit through, but because of this guy, I kept asking my wife if she wanted to continue - which she did, though she agreed with me at the end. Close second to him was the acting for his aunt's character. For the rest of the characters, the acting performance was inversely proportional to the number of lines.
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ohiomom23 January 2004
I haven't read Orson Welles' book or have seen the 1942 movie, but have seen this A&E adaptation of The Magnificent Ambersons. This movie was almost painful to watch. Even though this was an all-star cast, I only felt that Madeleine Stowe (Isabel Amberson Minafer), Bruce Greenwood (Eugene Morgan) and James Cromwell (Major Amberson) were a credit to this movie. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (George Amberson Minafer) and Gretchen Mol (Lucy Morgan) may have looked their respective parts, but little else. Both Rhys-Meyers and Mol tend to overact their parts to a fault and Jennifer Tilly (Fanny Minafer) is outright hilarious, and not in a good way.

This movie adaptation has been butchered in the worst way in that I wouldn't recommend this movie to anyone. It's one of those movies that you see and tell yourself, "Well, that's 2 hours of my life I'll never get back.."
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