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It's the late nineteenth century. Annie Miller, more regularly referred to as Daisy, of Schenectady, New York, is on a grand tour of Europe with her mother, Mrs. Ezra Miller, her precocious adolescent brother, Randolph Miller, and their manservant, Eugenio. It is at their stop in Vevey, Switzerland that Daisy meets Frederick Winterbourne, an American expat studying in Geneva. Frederick has mixed emotions about Daisy. On the one hand, he is captivated by her beauty. On the other, he believes her to be uneducated and improper in her modern American attitude and behavior, she basically doing whatever she wants regardless of the possible perception of impropriety by those in Frederick's social circle. That latter view is shared by Frederick's aunt, Mrs. Costello, with who he is traveling. Conversely, Daisy finds Frederick to be stiff. Regardless, Daisy does allow Frederick to spend time with her as they move from Vevey to Rome, Italy in their individual parallel travels. Through this time...Written by
Cybill Shepherd Miscast as Daisy in a shallow version of James novella
I agree with the reviewer who finds Ms. Shepherd utterly wrong for the part, and quite destroying the film. Henry James is a much more subtle portraitist of Americans abroad during that period than either actress or director could represent. For a start, someone so obnoxiously shallow as Shepherd's Daisy, and whose attempts at vivaciousness and flirtation so blatantly stagy, that the young hero must have been an absolute dill to have been so smitten. Nor is the actress so beautiful (or really young) as to make his sexual infatuation credible. Still it could have been worse, it could have been the worst "simperer" of all time, Mia Farrow cast in the role. That would have been a pill. However, possibly her special brand of naive vulnerability may have made Daisy more sympathetic. Thank good EVERYONE ELSE in the cast (apart from an uncharismatic and therefore unconvincing, Duilio del Prete as Gionavelli) is not only believable, but put in amazing performances, especially Barry Brown, Cloris Leachman, Mildred Natwick and Eileen Bannen, all perfect in their roles.
The theme of innocence destroyed by the social environment, not to mention evil schemers (as in Portrait of a Lady) or in this case, symbolically, the natural environment ("Roman Fever"), or even supernatural environment (as in Turn of the Screw) is a really central issue in many of James's novels and stories. To feel sympathy for the protagonist, she (as the protagonist often is) has to have not only innocence (which is misconstrued, exploited and/ or finally shattered), but also a kind of unshakable moral core. This could be as simple as a confident and self-possessed disregard of convention, or a genuine moral belief of the rightness of one's own actions. It is often represented as a subtle character trait.
Although these themes are indeed present in the film, Bogdanovich' simply fails to capture the quiet intensity of James's work.
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