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.
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Turning her back on her wealthy, established family, Diane Arbus falls in love with Lionel Sweeney, an enigmatic mentor who introduces Arbus to the marginalized people who help her become one of the most revered photographers of the twentieth century.
Robert Downey Jr.,
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>
Kidman sizzles in this haunting adaptation of a James classic!
Jane Campion has adapted Henry James' classic 1881 novel "The Portrait of a Lady" in off-kilter style. The result is a pleasing if not entirely successful loosening up of the traditional costume drama. Her modern viewpoints spring naturally from the novel's themes, but sometimes the tricks she plays, though witty, are not essential. She gets beneath the skin of Isabel Archer's misguided quest for an intelligent life--literally, for the movie contains those Campionesque below-the-surface touches in which objects seem to sigh, the earth to move, the soul to thud in the lungs--in a way that points up that no living moment is mundane. The dialogue, the sense of time and place as the cultures of the Old and New Worlds collide in 19th-century Europe, the heroic charm of Isabel, the manipulative allure of Madame Merle who leads her astray: All these are handled with imagination and ease, but not the storyline or the men who people its path.
Nicole Kidman is a splendid Isabel, curving forth to shape her own destiny with an appealing mix of naivete and regality, and Barbara Hershey's bruised beauty imbues with rue her Merle's trickery. But the male roles are miscast. John Malkovich is too obvious a choice for the evil lounge lizard Gilbert Osmond, so his portrayal therefore lacks fascination. Richard E. Grant as Lord Warburton is without the dignity that would have made the proposal of marriage to Archer less easy to reject. Viggo Mortensen's dime-novel good looks oversimplify the threatening ardor of the insistent Caspar Goodwood. Martin Donovan, despite his many well-timed coughs, seems too vigorous as the consumptive Ralph Touchett. In consequence, following Isabel's feelings toward each and every lover becomes a very bumpy ride, while the overview that Campion espouses is also uncertain in judgment and tone. The costumes (wondrously flattering to Kidman's figure--or maybe it's vice versa) and production design by Janet Patterson have a cruel beauty. Mary-Louise Parker is amusing as the stridently "modern" Henrietta Stackpole, and Sir John Gielgud amazingly original in a cameo deathbed scene.
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