Catherine Sloper (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has found the man of her dreams in Morris Townsend (Ben Chaplin), but her plans to marry him are strongly opposed by her father, Dr. Austin Sloper (...
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Catherine Sloper (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has found the man of her dreams in Morris Townsend (Ben Chaplin), but her plans to marry him are strongly opposed by her father, Dr. Austin Sloper (Albert Finney), who believes Townsend is only interested in his daughter for her money. But Catherine is determined to follow her heart, even if she loses her inheritance in the process. But just what are Townsend's intentions?Written by
Mike Myers <email@example.com>
I first saw "The Heiress" when it first came out. I was about 12, but old enough to be fascinated by the characters and the basic conflict. Wow! I read the James' book "Washington Square" about 30 years later. I was disappointed. It was a rambling story told by a busybody with none of the dramatic high points of The Heiress; it is Henry James" first novel and has none of the intriguing nuances of his later novels.
This film stays closer to the novel than "The Heiress". Thus, it is much less of a drama. The attempt to do the book is commendable, but it is not necessarily the route to an entertaining film. Here, the characterizations are obscurely unmotivated (Finney), over-the-top (Smith), uneven and sometimes weird (Leigh), and charmless and off-putting (Chapin). The musical score is intrusive. All of this contrasts badly with "The Heiress", in which the characters had far more depth, authenticity, and appeal(certainly Morris and even the minor characters).
This longer version attempts a better exposition of the characters' psychology. Good ambition but it fails. Take Dr. Sloper. A hard working, self-made man who despises Morris Townsend mainly because he is a self-centered loafer. It is not snobbery which motivates him, Morris is a gentleman, but his belief in merit and good works. He does love his daughter but she disappoints him with her shyness and inability to master much of life. He pushes her to manage better, but he is constantly frustrated. For her to marry Morris would be to shatter all he believes about how people should live. A bad guy? A good guy? All of this comes out in Ralph Richardson"s performance in "The Heiress.' Finney just seems like an nasty oaf in comparison.
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