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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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>
Susan Sarandon was originally cast to play Madame Merle, but had to pull out when the shooting schedule was delayed and interfered with the beginning of her daughter's school year. Barbara Hershey played the role instead, and received her first Academy Award nomination for her performance. See more »
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 »
I vacillate between preferring films that do a simple thing extremely well (Muppet Movie) or those that shoot high and fail. This film is the latter.
Campion has allied her aspirations with `women's' perspectives; honorable and rich enough. And she selects material ripe with possibilities. Clearly she has a vision, presumably extracted from the author's, but she fails to get on top of it.
Part of the problem is the simplification of the book for the screenplay. We just don't get enough foundation for the travesty of person we witness. A large part of the problem is Ms Kidman. She simply doesn't have the depth to pull this off, though she wears the clothes well. We never really see her supposed extraordinary spirit, and never really see how she's trapped by that very same spirit. Malkovich doesn't help. Here, he's too one-dimensionally a schemer.
Campion knows better than to throw in so many irrelevant film-school angles as a substitute for narrative reflection. This film is worth seeing as a study in how a spirited film maker is seduced by that very spirit into the superficialities of style, so is trapped. The ambiguous ending is, I think, Campion's limbo. Let's hope she escapes for her sake as well as ours. We need that spirit.
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