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Mrs. Harris
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Mrs. Harris (TV) More at IMDbPro »

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11 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Disappointing Film with a Fine Cast

5/10
Author: gradyharp from United States
26 February 2006

MRS. HARRIS is an HBO dud movie, and that is primarily because of the content of the story, the writing, the direction, and the waste of some fine actors' time. Based on a book by Shana Alexander adapted for the screen and directed by Phyllis Nagy, the story relates in fractured pieces between a murder scene, a trial and flashbacks the pathetic story of the death of Dr. Herman Tarnower (a wasted Ben Kingsley) the Scarsdale Diet author/doctor/womanizer at the hands of Mrs. Jean Harris (Annette Bening) a upwardly climbing school marm who becomes Tarnower's live in lover and addicted to his prescribed drugs. Her life is plagued by Tarnower's inability to keep his apparent elephantine genitals (this is made clear in an extended ridiculously inane segment in a locker room!) in his pants and eventually her own shaky self perception leads her to a suicide attempt that results in Tarnower's murder. The story is based on fact so there is no giving away an ending.

The only reason to watch this bit of tripe is Annette Bening who is such a gifted actress that she can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear - and this screenplay is definitely the latter. A surprising squandering of money is obvious in the casting of bit parts to fine actors such as Cloris Leachman, Brett Butler, Ellen Burstyn, Mary McDonnell, Phillip Baker Hall, Chloë Sevigny, etc. Many have only one line! Otherwise this is a one of those films that relies on media blitz spectacle posing as a worthy story to create a movie. A must miss - except for Bening. Grady Harp, February 06

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3 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Comedy

Author: sharilyn3 from Texas
3 March 2006

If you look at this movie as humorous you'll soon see that it is a very dark comedy. It is sometimes sly and subtle, sometimes almost burlesque(the locker room scene) but always not taking itself too seriously. "We never fought except about the use of the subjunctive!" C'mon. I think Ben Kingsly always kept the comedy aspects of his character in mind and played it very broadly. This movie has what must be by far the most oddly matter-of-fact murder scene ever filmed. I think if you are old enough to remember when this was on the news it will enhance your appreciation of it. Watching people thought to be upper class brought low has been fodder for comedy since theater began.

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1 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A one-sided version of events.

5/10
Author: emuir-1 from United States
31 December 2006

This one-sided retelling of the sensational murder trial was a total waste of talent. It is galling to see Sir Ben Kingsley wasting his time in this "Woman as victim" soap opera. Dr. Tarnower was portrayed as a cruel, sadistic womanizer wiping his feet on the poor schoolmistress. Jean Harris was portrayed as a tragic victim driven to desperation by her lover's cruelty. At least they did mention that she had walked out on her husband before meeting Dr. Tarnower.

The film ignored the fact that Dr. Tarnower was a confirmed bachelor and did not want children, and had told Jean Harris right at the beginning. He apparently was quite happy to wine, dine, and take his lady friends to social occasions and on trips to exotic locations as long as they did not expect him to marry them. Unfortunately, Jean wanted the goodies AND marriage. Had they married, she would probably have been throughly miserable.

As the diet book became a best seller and he became a celebrity doctor, Jean may have felt she was being left behind, especially as she was being passed over for promotion at the school. The similarity to the murder of successful playwright Joe Orton by his companion of many years, Kenneth Halliwell struck me. Orton was murdered in a fit of jealousy by Halliwell who's career was not taking off, while Orton was the celebrated darling of swinging London.

The film briefly skipped over a 14 year relationship and a lengthy trial. I just wish that we could have seen more of Dr. Tarnower's side of the story, and a little of Jean Harris's sojourn in prison.

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6 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

With the material, this should have been good....Too shallow

3/10
Author: MarieGabrielle from United States
27 August 2006

and anyone with an IQ over 50 will agree about the results of this.

A great story deracimated by a Hollywood studio (yet again) underestimating their audience.

Annette Bening, Sir Ben Kingsley, Frances Fisher, Frank Whaley, and other talented artists again prove one thesis I have: The most perfect, flawless actor cannot transcend bad writing, and inferior product.

This is proof. We need a re-make(soon). Mrs. Harris was a brilliant, over-achieving woman who had an obsessive relationship with Dr. Tarnower. The relationship was complex, and she surely did not act and speak like a brainless plebeian, as she is portrayed in this film. Nor, I am sure, was Tarnower as obviously repulsive. Why is it Hollywood has screenwriters who cannot comprehend intellectuals?. Perhaps they should read the New York Times Book Review at least one time a year, before they propose to understand people who grew up with education, writing, and achievement as a cornerstone, rather than as an aside to the Rolls Royce parked in the garage. Tiresome and ridiculous. 2/10. accomplishment.

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8 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

More then OK, less then great

8/10
Author: triple8 from Conn
26 February 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS THROUGH:

Mrs. Harris, like many movies, has both good and bad aspects to it. I went into this thinking it would either be an extraordinary film or absolutely awful. I was wrong on both guesses. The movie is above average but not great although there are certainly some great elements to it.

First the positives. Annette Benning and Ben Kingsley are cast in the main roles. Now just that fact alone will probably encourage some people, who ordinarily wouldn't be interested in this type of film, to give it a viewing. And Benning and Kingsley do not disappoint. Both of them deliver very powerful performances, particularly Benning who in my opinion is one of the top actresses working today. No matter what type of character she plays she always makes you forget she is Annette Benning. And this performance is no different.

The combination of Kingsley and Benning together on screen elevates this movie considerably. Both of them are able to play their roles with conviction and believability. The movie and it's two leads, were excellent at showing the relationship from the happy beginning, the problems that came up, and the downward spiral. They were also excellent in really painting a portrait of both these people and tapping into the emotion element of who they were and the red flags that started to come up that were able to show the viewer they were on a collision coarse. Although the movie sometimes seemed made for television in a lifetime channel kind of way, those moments did not last, because Benning and Kingsley were around to prevent that and they were throughly convincing as a screen couple. They never resorted to theatrics and played their roles with a naturalness that one very rarely sees in this type of film.

Something else that must be mentioned is the great use of music in the movie. Now a lot of movies have music in them but it's the rare film that can use music in an effective way. That element was done very well here.The "Color my world" scene in particular stood out to me. It's just not often that a movie is that good in knowing what musical selections work that well, and this movie did. Kudos to whoever selected the music.

So with the great performances, the great music choices and the photography which was good as well, that's enough to make the movie watchable. Unfortunately it doesn't ever cross the line to being a "Great" movie and that's largely because of the editing, sequences of scenes, and flow of the picture in general.

I really thought the editing was rather choppy and think the story would have been told much better without all the flashbacks. The whole thing with the supporting cast talking to the camera has been done in other movies, sometimes done well, most notably in the excellent film "To Die For" where it really worked. But it doesn't work here. We don't see nearly enough of any of the supporting cast and most frustrating was not being able to see either of the two leads interact with almost anybody except each other.

I am sure I'm not the only one who would have liked to see more of their relationships with other people and we didn't really get to see that. The editing was off and there was WAY to much retelling of the night of the murder. That DID seem exploitative and after awhile it was like: how many times do they need to show us bullets raining out in the rain soaked night? That was how the movie started(to much to fast if you ask me) and those scenes took away from the film and there was to much time devoted to the same scene.

The scene of Ben Kingsley in the locker room was honestly rather strange but I suppose I liked it. It sure was different. Mrs. Harris isn't what I would call a great movie but at times it did have it's moments and probably would have had even more if certain things were fixed a bit. I would call it an above average film that falls short of being great but is definitely worth a look. My vote's 8 of 10.

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14 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

They don't get much worse than this

1/10
Author: lffurth from United States
9 April 2006

Surreal and awful. Disjointed and self-important. If you don't already know the story, forget learning anything from this movie. If you do, then you can't believe the license they take with the material. If you like good movies and interesting scripts, than this is not the movie for you. Dialog flatter than a pancake. You can't believe such talented actors can be so bad. And Ben Kingsley's pseudo-New York/Brooklyn/Jewish/English accent is so bad that Arnold Schwarzenegger himself would be wondering why he wasn't cast in the role. And, oh yes, the BS docu-stlye filming is all over the place. A true work of crap....

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3 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Femme Fatale

2/10
Author: ldavis-2 from I am here. Where are you?
19 March 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Saw this during HBO's free weekend preview. All I can say is that with obnoxious twits like Bill Maher, Bryant Gumbel and Robert Wuhl, HBO needs all the suckers - uh, sorry - subscribers they can get!

I don't know how much of "Mrs. Harris" is true, but I couldn't muster anything remotely resembling pity for the woman. If it isn't true, she should go after Phyllis Nagy for this clunker, because she and the Good Doctor here are utterly despicable creatures. Dissing Hy's ("My first Jew!") wandering eye in front of Momma? Oy!

Knowing what a truly narcissistic jerk Warren Beatty is (as those who saw his speech at the Oscars a few years back can attest), I understand Annette Bening wanting to do something - anything - to get out of the house! Once, she was on her way to a brilliant career, but, alas, seems to have settled for playing shrill harpies.

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4 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Pretty descent

8/10
Author: minsterbinster from United States
2 March 2006

I thought it was interesting, and I loved Annett Bening's work in it. Without it, there wouldn't be much to the movie. The line when she tells him to stop hurting so many women and just hurt her, is worthy of awards in itself. If there was any issue, it was with the writing. There was a lack of completion. I think it's because they really only have Jean Harris' account of what happened. I never believe people when they say that they were trying to kill themselves, but killed another person by accident, and were never able to kill themselves. But sometimes you have to sympathize with women who are mistreated so callously. I feel like their life was very much like it was portrayed: crazy. 8/10. Some good HBO Entertainment.

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15 out of 40 people found the following review useful:

A work of genius

10/10
Author: twatzilla from United States
10 November 2005

Without giving away a delightful surprise, the first music you hear when this exercise in cinematic brilliance opens will - if you're already familiar with the Scarsdale Diet Doctor saga - make you gasp, then titter, then sit forward in your seat, determined not to miss one second of this masterpiece.

I didn't expect much, really. Another of Annette Bening's star turns, I thought, still annoyed that she got gypped out of the Oscar last year for "Being Julia." But, I figured, Mrs. Harris was a local - we live in Northern Virginia - and so we went to see it at the Toronto Film Festival.

Here's what: I want to see it again, the day it opens, and then I want to buy the soundtrack CD, and then I want to own a dozen copies of the DVD, simply because this is a movie with such a compelling story, told in the most remarkable narrative, with a cast that defies all description.

If, as one person here commented, HBO is thinking of releasing it on TV, I would say that that would be a HUGE mistake, since it's a BIG BIG BIG movie that needs a BIG BIG BIG screen. Remember Norma Desmond's famous line? Well, don't make these big actors work on the small screen.

The writer/director, Phyllis Nagy, I am told, has never written or directed a movie before. Well, where has this brilliant beauty been? I tell you, I'll just go and see anything this woman works on, because this is genius, this was a breathtaking and riveting experience, and I KNEW HOW IT ENDED! Imagine that. Even though I remembered the whole story quite well, I hung onto each frame, each second, as if the fate of world depended on it. Ms. Nagy is a national treasure, whoever she is, and I wish I knew her, because I would give her a big hug and a kiss and I would tell her to run, not to walk, and start writing another movie, directing another movie, delivering another work of genius to a grateful and joyous public.

Absolutely unbelievable film, "Mrs. Harris." Kudo, Ms. Nagy.

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5 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

I think it was good....

7/10
Author: galasius from Mississauga, Ontario
16 September 2005

To a viewer unfamiliar with the past works of Annette Bening and (Sir) Ben Kingsley, one might think they were terrible actors based solely on Mrs. Harris.

The performances by Bening and Kingsley seemed over emphasized and over acted. Knowing their abilities, I can only assume that their performance style was intentional and is integral to the story. With that in mind, I have a very different appreciation for Mrs. Harris than I would have as a 'first-time' viewer of Bening and Kingsley.

The film took on an almost bad 'made-for-TV' docu-drama feel - again, I hope and expect this was an intentional move by newcomer screenwriter/director Phyllis Nagy.

This isn't another Being Julia, American Beauty, or Sexy Beast, but if you're a Bening and/or Kingsley fan, check it out. I suspect you'll draw the same conclusions that I did regarding the performance style and it's meaning.

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