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The Portrait of a Lady (1996)

PG-13 | | Drama, Romance | 17 January 1997 (USA)
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An American girl inherits a fortune and falls into a misguided relationship with a gentleman confidence artist whose true nature, including a barbed and covetous disposition, turns her life into a nightmare.

Director:

Jane Campion

Writers:

Henry James (novel), Laura Jones (screenplay)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Nicole Kidman ... Isabel Archer
John Malkovich ... Gilbert Osmond
Barbara Hershey ... Madame Serena Merle
Mary-Louise Parker ... Henrietta Stackpole
Martin Donovan ... Ralph Touchett
Shelley Winters ... Mrs. Touchett
Richard E. Grant ... Lord Warburton
Shelley Duvall ... Countess Gemini
Christian Bale ... Edward Rosier
Viggo Mortensen ... Caspar Goodwood
Valentina Cervi ... Pansy Osmond
John Gielgud ... Mr. Touchett
Roger Ashton-Griffiths ... Bob Bantling
Catherine Zago Catherine Zago ... Mother Superior
Alessandra Vanzi Alessandra Vanzi ... Nun #2
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Storyline

Isabel Archer, an American heiress and free thinker travels to Europe to find herself. She tactfully rebuffs the advances of Caspar Goodwood, another American who has followed her to England. Her cousin, Ralph Touchett, wise but sickly becomes a soulmate of sorts for her. She makes an unfortunate alliance with the creepy Madame Merle who leads her to make an even more unfortunate alliance with Gilbert Osmond, a smooth but cold collector of Objets' de art who seduces her with an intense but unattainable sexuality. Isabel marries Osmond only to realize she's just another piece of art for his collection and that Madame Merle and Osmond are lovers who had hatched a diabolical scheme to take Isabel's fortune. Isabel's only comfort is the innocent daughter of Osmond, Pansy, but even that friendship is spoiled when Countess Gemini, Osmond's sister, reveals the child's true parentage. Isabel finally breaks free of Osmond and returns to Ralph's bedside, where, while breathing his last, they ... Written by Teresa B. <O'Donnell@worldnet.att.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for mature sensuality and some brief nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English | Italian

Release Date:

17 January 1997 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Retrato de una dama See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$134,805, 29 December 1996, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$3,692,836, 24 February 1997
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Jane Campion cast Martin Donovan after seeing him in Trust (1990). See more »

Goofs

When Isabel is attempting to retrieve her parasol from Mr. Osmond, all camera shots of her show the bow around her neck to her right. However, there is one camera shot that shows the bow to her left. See more »

Quotes

Mr. Touchett: Things are always different from what they might be.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Jane Campion thanks her family, Colin, Alice and Richard, for their generous support, suggestions and encouragement during the making of this film. See more »

Connections

Referenced in In a Savage Land: Cast and Crew Interviews (2001) See more »

Soundtracks

Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, BWV 1041
Composed by Johann Sebastian Bach
Courtesy of Audio Action
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A woman is torn between independence and love in this feminist adaptation of Henry James' novel.
14 March 2001 | by hommedeplumeSee all my reviews

Many people could not warm up to this remarkable adaptation of Henry James' novel, A Portrait of a Lady. The dark, abusive themes and open ending are not part of typical costume drama fare, but both are true to Henry James' novel and to Jane Campion's vision.

Henry James originally wrote the novel in the 1880s. Intended as an exploration of what a woman might do if she were given independent means, James' book indicts women as being trapped by a weaker nature. Exploring the same material Campion's movie comes to a different conclusion.

The adaptation and direction are superb. The movie maintains the steady rhythm of doom that makes James' novel an enduring classic. There is no place where this is more evident in the film than in its lingering images. The camera holds on to the subject a moment longer than expected, making the viewer a little uncomfortable, and anticipating sudden disaster that never quite arrives. Ms. Campion directs this film like a horror film, which is exactly what it is.

The acting in this film is also convincing, from Nicole Kidman's paralyzed Isabel, to John Malkovich as a hypnotically terrifying pursuer. They are backed by a solid cast of major actors in minor roles, all adding to Isabel's complex societal tragedy.

Portrait of a Lady, particularly this film adaptation, is a remarkable example of how stories may stay the same, but their meanings change over time.

Related films include: Washington Square (1997), The House of Mirth (2000), The Buccaneers (1995)(mini).


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