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26 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

Finally a coherent film version of the Tarkington classic

Author: philip-1 from Chicago, IL
31 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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16 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

I liked it

8/10
Author: rosalindr from United States
15 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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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is amazing.

9/10
Author: esther delcarmen (valky9@hotmail.com) from Austin, TX USA
22 January 2002

*** This review may contain 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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14 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

American Tragedy

7/10
Author: RodReels-2 from United States
19 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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18 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Truly monstrous!

1/10
Author: Roy A Fowler from London UK
14 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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9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

A Stand Alone

8/10
Author: wordsmith_57 from United States
12 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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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Misguided Adaptation

1/10
Author: Shane James Bordas from United Kingdom
29 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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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Third time's the charm?

8/10
Author: plamya-1 from United States
8 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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10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Magnificent Myers

8/10
Author: Starlla34_98 from USA
23 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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9 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

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

1/10
Author: dennis4 from A Mess
14 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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