An impoverished woman who has been forced to choose between a privileged life with her wealthy aunt and her journalist lover, befriends an American heiress. When she discovers the heiress is attracted to her own lover and is dying, she sees a chance to have both the privileged life she cannot give up and the lover she cannot live without.
Kate Croy's (Helena Bonham Carter's) mother was born to wealth and privilege, but she threw it all away to marry Kate's Father (Sir Michael Gambon), a penniless opium addict who admits to having stolen from his wife. After her mother's death, Kate is offered an opportunity to return to the life her mother gave up. There is one condition, however: Kate must sever all of her old ties, not only to her father, but also to her lover, the muck-raking journalist Merton Densher (Linus Roache), whom she has promised marriage. Kate reluctantly agrees to this, and in the meantime becomes friendly with "the world's richest orphan", Milly Theale (Alison Theale), an American making the Grand Tour. Desperate to see Kate, Merton crashes a party that she and Milly are attending, and Milly is attracted to him. When Kate learns that Milly is dying, she comes up with a plan to have her cake and eat it too, but all does not go as planned.Written by
The story was moved up in time from 1902 to 1910, in part at the behest of Costume Designer Sandy Powell. Fashion evolved significantly between those eight years, and Powell felt that the 1910 silhouette would help set this movie apart from the movies made by Merchant-Ivory (which are often set in the 1900s). Powell's efforts and subsequent unique designs earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design, but like most other nominated movies in 1997, lost to Titanic (1997). See more »
The tile pattern on the Underground stations the train passes through at the beginning of the film are identical in pattern and color for each station. Each station on the Piccadilly line had its own tile pattern and color scheme so that the illiterate could still recognize their station without needing to read the station name. See more »
Helena Bonham Carter performs her role with nuances of visage and body, and in particular eyebrow, which capture the essence of Kate's manipulation and longing. Everyone performs well.
The cinematography is some of the most beautiful I have ever seen on film--it ranks near Vertigo as one of a few films which breach entertainment and are masterpieces of art. The Venetian and Edwardian locales never cease to fascinate and titilate the viewer. The final sequence represents graphically the vacuity which has enveloped Kate and her love with haunting realism.
Do not watch the film to be "entertained"--it depresses with little reserve and wrenches the heart. Let the music, camera, and Bonham Carter sweep you into the magic of this cinematic masterpiece.
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