The Golden Bowl (2000) Poster

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Not everybody's cup of tea. But the cup is lovely.
rps-27 November 2002
I'm a sucker for anything set in Edwardian England, good or bad. This is neither. The plot is clever but a little wooly. It takes a while to figure out just who is doing what to whom and why. A father and his daughter each married to the partners in a torrid affair. Rather gives a new meaning to "menage a trois." (Or is it "menage a quatre"?)I don't think even Y&R has tackled this one yet! However the performances are flawless, the settings lush and the cinematography superb. The use in a couple of places of old newsreel footage is especially innovative and interesting but doesn't seem to serve much dramatic purpose. And the symbolism of the golden bowl is a little too obvious and overworked. Nevertheless I liked this movie a lot!
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8/10
Just right
ruthgee27 May 2001
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala has made "The Golden Bowl" come to life. Henry James's last novel, a rather difficult read, has been told very simply without missing the point of the novel. I have read a lot of criticisms of this movie and cannot understand why a lot of the critics say that it was a difficult movie to understand. The constumes, sets etc. recreated the time most wonderfully. The splendor of the great homes, the decay of the Italian Castle, the history of Amerigo's family, the under currents of feelings between the characters all seemed so right. For some, the movie might feel a little long, but Henry James is a most difficult author to translate into film. I liked the use of old black and white movies for the scenes in New York, it added to the stmosphere.
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8/10
Human nature changes so little, through the centuries, as this very good film shows!
Amy Adler10 July 2006
Prince Amerigo (Jeremy Northam) has a castle on the verge of ruin and empty pockets. Although he lusts after a poor but beautiful lady named Charlotte, he decides to marry her very rich friend instead. His new wife, Maggie, is a lovely, innocent human being, totally unspoiled by wealth. Maggie hopes to see her widowed father happily remarried and encourages his interest in Charlotte. It happens. Charlotte agrees to marry America's first billionaire, what a tough gig. But, why? Does she have any affection for Maggie's father? Or does she want to stay in close contact with Amerigo? It seems the latter, for Charlotte and the Prince go everywhere together, now that it is acceptable for two "relatives" to gad about. What is happening here? The book was written over 100 years ago but this story of human nature shows that very little changes under the sun. Northam and Thurman excel as the egocentric and evil humans who are so very lovely to look upon, it hurts. Beckinsale and Nolte likewise give nice turns as the folks who still have hearts beating in their breasts, despite their riches. As period pieces go, the costuming, the scenery, the staging, and the cinematography here are sumptuous. True, the pace is somewhat slow and the tale is intricate and subtle, requiring a repeat viewing, perhaps. However, Merchant and Ivory fans and non-fans will be rewarded by sitting through this timeless and tantalizing tale. If anyone wants to arrange for friends to share a movie evening together, the Bowl will have everyone talking.
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8/10
Subtle, complex and wonderfully portrayed
cm-95 February 2003
The best Merchant Ivory so far, and ideal film material.

The story is engrossing and perceptive, dealing with human relationships in all their forms. It takes a hard and frank look at the motivation behind several different relationships, which varies from selfishness, loneliness and boredom to love of the deepest kind. The film makes you wonder how and why we choose our friends.

Personally, I found the acting and direction superb, apart from a couple of flat speeches by Kate Beckinsale (whose accent also varied quite a bit). Unfortunately one of these comes in the scene where her character is introduced, which may have put some people off this film at an early stage (there are a lot of negative comments on here!). The rest of the cast are superb, especially Uma Thurman who is mastering the art of conveying a lot of meaning with just a single look. Tension builds up throughout and is skillfully maintained right until the end.

It is, of course, a film that you need to see on a big screen as part of the point of a Merchant Ivory production is the exquisite detail that goes into getting the costumes and locations just right. Even more so than in their past productions, a huge amount of effort has been spent here.

One thing I found is that the characters felt fairly isolated: most of the time, you just saw the leading characters in a scene on their own and, apart from a couple of party scenes, there was not much attempt to show the society in which they lived; also there were few exterior shots in the cities. It may be that that was quite deliberate, to show that these incredibly wealthy people lived very insular lives.
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7/10
Gloriously unsatisfying
George Parker9 November 2001
"The Golden Bowl", a period piece circa 1900's, turns a microscope on the innerworkings of the relationships of four people, two men and two women, bound by blood, marriage, love, duty, etc. and scrutinizes them to the exclusion of all else. Sadly, the people aren't sufficiently interesting or charismatic to support such scrutiny for 2.2 hours. Amidst the sumptuous splendor of grand costuming, locations, props, makeup, etc. with some heavyweights behind the film, "TGB" is an earnest effort which comes off as much ado about nothing with the one steamy and passionate relationship underdone while the emphasis lingers on the minutia. Somewhat awkward and staged at times, the film doesn't rise to the level of it better period predecessors but will still be a worthwhile watch for those into films about wealth and aristocracy.
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Better than the book, unless you enjoy convoluted phrases that would be incomprehendable were it not for semicolons!!!
alicecbr25 May 2001
OK, so we need Henry James for character exposition. That complements beautifully the wonderful cinematography of all these great castles in England and Italy. Of course, the source of all these riches is alluded to with the real grainy film of the coal miners in AmericanCity. I haven't found yet the line in the novel by Thurman: "But the miners would prefer the train to a museum" when Nolte describes to her how he will buy both sides of the street and the train tracks between in order to build his museum. The reason the language sounds stilted is that much of the dialogue was lifted verbatim from the novel.....what little dialogue there is. And of course, the fascinating 'beasts unleashed' flavor of the sexual intercourse scene is NEVER to be found even alluded to in the novel.

By the way, Edward II is buried in Gloucester Cathedral. That question comes up, but is NEVER answered in the movie, and you THINK it is going to be the little point that breaks up their alibi: "We went to Gloucester Abbey, where there is some king buried, Edward II or Richard II." The acting is superb, the scenery gorgeous and the psychological incest between Nolte and his daughter is discreetly and appropriately exemplified. As HJ says, talking together in the castle gardens, they did indeed resemble husband and wife. The adultery of the other two was almost foreordained.

The social habits of this age when women had no independent means of making a living is underlined. See this in conjunction with "House of Mirth" and you'll thank your lucky stars you live in 2001. As much sexism as still exists in the workplace, we have indeed come a LONG way, Baby!!!! Thurman's sense of imprisonment is palpable, and I wonder how many women went stark raving mad over their dependency, a form of slavery all the more odious for it not being recognized.

I wonder if ALice James had any part in the writing of this novel. After reading this, she must have felt much better about her 'plight'. Although I wish for the maiden ladies of that day, that they might have been able to adopt or have babies without the social stigmas of the time......a great joy in life that shouldn't be linked with the social tyranny of 'catching a man'.

Return to a time when people used their minds for things other than writing better software, as their country and Constitution are taken over by greedy ignorant barbarians intent on destroying the planet. It's a great movie.!!!
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Jarvis and James and Ms. Houston's varying accent
gloss24 June 2001
I agree with Timer, and, frankly am tickled that someone else noticed the resemblance of the antique dealer Jarvis to Henry James himself. I have seen too many of James Ivory's films to feel that this was accidental. But I didn't really see the resemblance until Jarvis came to deliver the bowl. (His shop was rather dark, and he may not have been wearing his cut-away coat at work.) I also thought it interesting how at least twice Jarvis put his hands out to catch the bowl should someone drop it, thus calling our attention to its fragility. (This was crystal, not glass, and who knows whether it will break when dropped?)

The movie was over-long, of course. But it was a feast! There were many scenes that could have been edited down or eliminated, but the luxury of seeing the extra footage was wonderful. It reminded me of another favorite, wonderful(and long) movie, Mike Leigh's *Topsy-Turvey* (about the partnership of Gilbert and Sullivan).

And interestingly, there's the same continuity/accent problem in both. In *The Golden Bowl* Angelica Houston plays some scenes with a distinct American Southern accent and some without. In *Topsy Turvy*, Sullivan's lover is quite British in one scene, chatting on about young Winston, yet at a piano recital she speaks in an American Southern accent. Wouldn't you think someone would have noticed in both instances and just re-looped the audio?

Finally, the only reason I knew that Jarvis resembled Henry James is a book that my wife and I wrote for Harcourt. It's called *About the Author* and contains "juicy-bits profiles" of 125 favorite (living, dead, male, female, etc.) novelists. To put it another way, we assume that the reader has access to most of the boilerplate info on each author (Web searches, encyclopedia articles, textbooks, etc.). So we focus on the stuff you won't find in most of those sources.

As part of our research, we learned that James's novels were often inspired by conversations and stories he heard at the many dinner parties he attended in London. (Between 1878 and 1879, he dined out 140 times.) Shades of Truman Capote?

Although born in New York City in 1843, he became a British citizen in 1915. Henry James also attended Harvard Law School between 1862 and 1863. His father was a friend of Thoreau, Emerson, and Hawthorne. He himself, at age 26, arrived in London and soon met Darwin, George Eliot, Ruskin, Rossetti, William Morris, and others.

He felt that criticism was intellectually superior to creative writing and considered himself primarily a critic. At the time of his death in 1916 at age 72, his novels were all but unread. Only after the observance of his 100th birthday in 1943, when World War II had focused America's attention on Europe, did critics realize that he was one of the greatest novelists of the 19th century.
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Merchant and Ivory do it once again!
StellaAlice5 June 2001
For those people who loved "A Room With a View" and "Howards End" but hated "Surviving Picasso" and "A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries," all is well in the universe. "The Golden Bowl" is excellent in every way. The film is exquisitely balanced. Nick Nolte, Kate Beckinsale, Angelica Houston and Uma Thurman are all amazing. Jeremy Northam is even better. The cinematography, the writing, the costumes; everything fits together. This is not a sleepy and slow costume drama, it is an exhilarating masterpiece. I do not know how loyal the screenplay is to James' novel, but the story is very moving and even though it is a "period piece," the issues that the characters face somehow seem contemporary. Uma Thurman's character Charlotte is one of the most heart-wrenching on-screen women I've seen recently. I hope the film can keep up a presence until the next Oscar race begins. This is one of the best films I have seen so far this year.
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Uma Thurman stands out in the film
Gordon-1127 December 2008
This film is about the complicated love life between four people bound by blood, marriage and lust.

The plot is rather simple and plainly told, but it is made up for by the lush costumes and visuals. It is delightful to see so many extravagant period dresses in each scene, I felt I was watching a fashion show! Uma Thurman's dresses are the most remarkable, her peacock costume and the white curly hat stand out from the crowd. Her heart wrenching performance proves she has great acting skills to parallel her extraordinary beauty.

Scenes in "The Golden Bowl" are thoughtfully constructed and thoughtfully decorated. The palace rooms are maximally decorated with flowers, paintings and sculptures; providing a visual feast of luxury and grandeur.

"The Golden Bowl" is well worth watching just for the grand sets and lavish costumes.
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7/10
I don't think it will appeal to the average fan of period movies
Philip Van der Veken17 August 2005
Despite the fact that I'm normally not a fan of period movies, I've seen two in a row now. The first one was "The Remains of the Day", the second one this "The Golden Bowl. Much to my surprise I must say that I liked both, although there was a big difference in the two. While the first one was very compelling and sometimes close to perfection, I didn't always have that feeling with this movie.

In the early 1900's Adam Verver, an American billionaire, lives with his daughter in London. When she is introduced to the Italian Prince Amerigo, it doesn't take long before they get married. But the prince has a secret. He has a relationship with Charlotte Stant, Maggie Verver's best friend. Because Maggie doesn't know that Amerigo and Charlotte know each other, she sees no harm in introducing her to her widowed father and therefor allowing her to become a member of the family once she marries him. Charlotte is very happy with this match of course, because all she wants is to be close to Prince Amerigo. All this leads to one big masquerade full of deception, lies and unhappiness which can't be revealed...

Despite the fact that I'm normally not a fan of this kind of movies, I must say that this one was OK. Especially the acting made it all worth watching. Thanks to the famous, but also well-acting cast which includes people like Kate Beckinsale, Anjelica Huston, Nick Nolte and Uma Thurman, I was able to enjoy this movie. Does that mean that it is a perfect movie? No, not exactly. The story for instances sometimes lacks a bit in power, making it not always very interesting to keep watching this movie for more than two hours. But on the other hand I must also say that it all could have been a lot worse. The story was perhaps not exceptional, but it sure was decent enough.

In the end I don't think this is a movie that will appeal to the average fan of period movies. First of all is the time period not exactly correct. I believe that those movies situated in the early 19th century are a lot more popular than one which is situated in the early 1900's. But since I'm not such an average fan and because I've always been interested in the time period 1900 - 1950, this was quite interesting for me. It's only too bad that the story wasn't a bit more exceptional. Now I give this movie a rating in between 7/10 and 7.5/10, mostly because of the fine performances.
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Best Merchant-Ivory of the last decade
nunculus4 June 2001
One wonders at the poor critical showing and commercial failure

of this absorbing, fantastically precise adaptation of the late Henry

James novel. Except for the sublime MR. AND MRS. BRIDGE--a

strange movie that feels nothing like the rest of James Ivory's

canon--THE GOLDEN BOWL is the best Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala

movie. As the American heroine caught between love and money,

Uma Thurman gives a slightly hysterical movie-starrish

performance that evokes Joan Crawford in her prime--which is

perfect; as her best friend and the wilting Jamesian fount of

innocence, Kate Beckinsale gives a comparatively straightforward

and candid performance that is blunt and thrilling. (What must she

have been thinking as those bombs fell on Pearl Harbor?) Nick

Nolte, Anjelica Huston and James Fox are also right in every detail

--as is the music and production design, which finally seem to

serve the story, rather than Ivory's nostalgia for one bygone era or

other. Everything about the movie (except for Jeremy Northam's

wan performance as the "impecunious Italian") is right on the

button. It's sad that it has now become knee-jerk to bash the

Merchant-Ivory crew; that reflex blinded most people from seeing

what's on the screen.
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6/10
The vase
jotix1004 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Charlotte Slant, an penniless American socialite, left her country to settle in Europe. This way, perhaps, her reduced means would go further in the Europe of the last part of the XIX century. In Florence, she meets, and falls in love, with an impoverished Italian prince. They become lovers, but neither one has the money to live well in the society both loved. When Charlotte goes to London, her good friend Fanny Assingham, an American with a lot of social connections, has a plan to marry her to Adam Verver, the first American billionaire, whose own daughter, Maggie, happened to be Charlotte's friend.

Amerigo had followed Charlotte to England, but he was seeing Maggie, a possible meal ticket, a way out for his money problems. One day, Charlotte and Amerigo visited an antique shop where they found a gorgeous vase decorated with gold. The owner tells them it is a perfect piece. The price though, kept it out of her budget, besides, she was not completely sure Maggie would like it. Amerigo's marriage to Maggie is a match made in heaven for Adam, who now can add a noble title to his future grandchildren.

Maggie and Amerigo divided their time between the house in London and her father's splendid palace he rents in Leicestershire. Charlotte, now married to the older Adam, had not stopped loving Amerigo. Their passion is stronger, if anything. One week-end Charlotte and Amerigo go to a country estate where a celebration is happening. When they are to return to London, they decide to stay overnight at Gloucester, where they spend the night at an out of the way inn. Maggie is worried, but when they reappear, Amerigo explains how they wanted to see the magnificent cathedral. In doing so, he mentions something he has not the correct answer. Who is buried at the cathedral? Was it Richard II, or Edward II? Maggie, who obviously knows the answer is upset.

Maggie, shopping at the antique shop is offered the golden bowl. The owner explains she can have it for less since he discovered a flaw in the crystal. When the merchant goes to deliver the piece, he notices the picture of Amerigo and Charlotte on a table. He mentions to Maggie this was the couple interested in buying the precious vase a few years ago. Maggie realizes the deception. Adam, noticing his daughter's distress, decides it is time for him to go back to America where he is building a museum to house all his European treasures. Charlotte, reluctantly, is made to go. In spite of her distaste for her native country, Charlotte will become a bigger socialite because of Adam's money, but in the process, she loses Amerigo.

If there was anyone meant to bring Henry James' novel to the screen, it was James Ivory, a man that had made excellent adaptations of mostly English classic authors. The adaptation was entrusted to Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, an usual collaborator, who had done well transferring the original works into cinematic terms. Unfortunately, this venture did not pay off the same way that most of the other efforts did. Part of the blame must go into the casting of the four principal roles, and the almost static staging of the novel. Henry James' work presents some difficulty for the transfer to the screen.

Uma Thurman is a ravishing creature. Her Charlotte is not exactly what one would have thought it could be. Complicating matters, there is no chemistry between her and Amerigo. Jeremy Northam's accent is not convincing for a noble Italian prince. Nick Nolte, who had worked with Mr. Ivory before, has a minor role. Kate Beckingsale, as Maggie is also not at her best. The only one that seems at ease is Anjelica Huston, whose Fanny is the best thing in the picture, but she is only a minor character.

The film is gorgeously photographed in authentic settings. Tony Pierce-Roberts' camera captures those great places in all its splendor. The musical score is by Richard Robbins.
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7/10
Startes off awful, becomes riveting
triple829 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILERS THROUGH:

The first half of The Golden Bowl was, for me, almost unwatchable. As mentioned by many, the formal stilted dialog was really really tough to enjoy and since I didn't know a whole lot about the plot(haven't read the book) much of the movie made no sense. This is a very hard movie to follow and I was also put off by the lack of emotion in the performances. At times it seemed like the performers were just reading dialog and I really did almost turn it off.

But the thing is, the second half of the movie is really interesting. It's like the movie and performers come into their own and all of a sudden, I got sucked into the whole story. By the time the end rolled around I was riveted. And the performers went from stiff and stilted to really really moving.

So I asked myself what in the world do I rate a movie like this? It really is a tough movie to decide if I liked or not when the first half was absolutely awful and the second half was not just good, but riveting. So finally I gave it a 7. It's really interesting in that I started off thinking all the performers were miscast and ended thinking they were all really good. This really is a movie that takes it's time in sucking you in.

I do wish it had been a little easier to follow( movie seems to assume that it's audience is familiar with the book) and some of the stilted dialog had been dropped. I understand that the period it was taking place in contributes to the dialog but it did make it very hard to become involved in the story and as mentioned, the performers came off initially as stiff and just not very comfortable, though that changed greatly as the story went on.

Beckinsale and Nolte were, in my opinion, the best and all the characters stay with you after. Uma Thurman, while originally seeming the most miscast, winds up delivering with one of the most powerful scenes in the film at the end and that one scene alone makes her character extremely memorable.

The landscapes were also very lovely and the story, in spite of the difficulty in following it, was compelling and the movie really does linger with you in a way that one might not expect, particularly during the first half. In my opinion, the ending was also way to rushed but since I haven't read the book I have no idea if the movie was just following the book. I'd see this again and will recommend it to fellow moviegoers I know. At the same time, if someone loses patience with the story and turns it off midstream I can understand that too because a lot of patience is needed in the beginning. It's definitely worth seeing though especially for period movie lovers. My vote's 7 of 10.
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5/10
See the hospital scene in 'The Sixth Sense'
SILENCEikillyou5 October 2002
Right now I am treading a very fine line, here. On the one hand I see this film for what it was... a period piece/drama. Then again, its about the moments fore and aft of two peoples' frustrations over their spouses' lack of interest for them and what they do about it. Therefore, one would think that there might be some sort of -what the French call a certain -I don't know what. Whatever the plot to this story needed -- it wasn't there.

Keep in mind, when I see a movie like this I've already decided that I need to be in the mood for lots of dialogue and scenery and deceptions. However, this movies lacked intrigue. One (at least I) already knew what was going to happen right near the beginning when we find thar person A finds out that person B is getting married and they've had a past relationship. What we get is a disecting of something that need not be dissected. Here's the fine line: 1) It was kind of cool to see Nick Nolte in such a different role for him. He proves once again that he's a very diverse actor. 2) All the performances were right on for projecting the emotions of their characters; and I mean all the performances... very well done.

What worked: Like I said, the performances. Beautifully done and quite an accurate portrayal. In fact, I debated giving this film more points for the actors' work, alone. However, good acting alone does not a great film make.

What didn't work: The story had the skin of a plot and with that plot great potential that was untapped. I think a story should have twists and turns and things happening out of the blue to keep the audience interested. But nothing, in my opinion, happened out of the blue. It was all quite straight-lined right to the end with no ups or downs or mystery. Having said that, if you want to see a film on how people lived in the early 20th century; this movie should fulfill you.

I'm reminded of the scene in 'The Sixth Sense' where Bruce Willis tells the story of the man who got in a car and drove and drove and drove and drove. Then, he stopped and though he'd drive some more. So, he drove on and drove... You get the point. Then, Cole speaks up and suggests that the doctor needs some twists and things to make the story interesting.

5/10 - all five points go to the performances of every artist in the cast for doing the parts they were given.

thank you
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1/10
do yourself a favour! Go see this movie!
kchynes13 May 2002
Do yourself a favour: go see this movie.

The story, the acting, the costumes, the cinematography, the subtle directors wit. Its all there.

All these things combined will enable you to have the best sleep you've had in years....

Though be warned, if you can't sleep, watching paint dry (or the grass grow) may be a preferable pastime...
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1/10
How do they get away with it?
Xanadu-212 May 2002
Merchant/ivory have cornered the market for costume dramas. Now it seems they´re running out of 19th century novels to film. Only the dullest ones are left!

It´s all just an excuse to put stars in fancy costumes in Italian and British castles. It´s almost a parody of a Merchant/Ivory film : rich white people saying nothing in grand salons. I have trouble feeling sorry for them.

There´s nothing new to see. Nothing happens for 2 hours and 20 minutes. That´s how long it takes for Kate Beckinsale to find out her husband is cheating and even then it´s undramatic. It goes on and on. It´s 'flawless' except that there is no story and not as "magical" as intended. Only the documentary footage is interesting.

Uma is an ok actress and a big star but quite uninteresting (tho she does have moments while wearing peacock feathers).

Snore…
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1/10
An Utter Disaster
philip-125 May 2001
This is by far one of the most tepid art films I've seen in a long while. I went into the theater with tremendous expectations. These were the people who made Maurice, Howards End, Room With a View. How could it fail?

There are three death blows dealt to this film.

One. James Ivory's direction is slow, uninspired, and mediocre. He doesn't create any tension or passion. The movie's story (which is not complicated) meanders along like a Wagner opera without great music or voices!

Two. The screenplay is very badly written. The actors sound stilted reading it and it makes Henry James seem like the worst author ever to achieve classic status.

Three. The casting is a disaster. Everyone save Anjelica Huston is miscast. Not a single character has any chemistry with any other character. Uma Thurman is simply horrible. She's boring, dull, and unable to create any real interest in this central character. Jeremy Northam is totally unbelievable as an Italian Prince. Chico Marx had a better accent. He creates not an iota of romantic tension or Mediterranean warmth, and they've made him look like Mandy Patinkin!!! Roberto Bengnini would have at least been more interesting! Kate Beckinsale is as vacuous as Thurman and annoyingly bland throughout the movie. And when are the Merchant Ivory people going to realize that Nick Nolte doesn't work in a period costume epic. Listening to him do the lines was liking listening to a high school play. Ughhhh!

The one plus for this movie is the art direction. It's stunning. But you can't look at sets and costumes for 2 1/2 hours without any sparks. And thank God for Anjelica Huston who brought energy that seemed to be lacking everywhere else. Possibly a cast of Julianne Moore, Antonio Banderas, Kate Winslet, and Michael Caine could have breathed life and interest into James's story.

5 thumbs down. Wanted to walk out, but like a fool, I stayed til the bitter end.
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My brief review of the film
sol-29 July 2005
A luscious Merchant-Ivory film, though far from being a satisfying one, the times and the setting are both depicted well, but the story is very dry. The characters are never really well introduced, and to begin with it is hard follow. Once one had figured out just what has happened though, the story has nothing left in its power to grip. Uma Thurman also feels a tad out of place, like she does not belong in the context of the film. However, there is not really much overall that one can definitely fault the film on. It is mostly just a very dry story, one which is lacking in depth and excitement, which is the downfall of the film.
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4/10
well acted, but pretty dull
MisterWhiplash12 May 2001
This was one of the few films in a long time that actually made me feel drowsy and dull. The film is another Merchant/Ivory film, which (very obscure Dennis Miller reference ahead) mean that afterwards, your girlfriend or wife will owe you some sex. ...anyway, the film has a very good cast including Uma Thurman, Nick Nolte, Anjelica Houston, Kate Beckinsale and Jeremy Northam, as Northam plays a guy who is starting to feel the only joy in his life to another woman (Thurman). Sounds good, but overall, the tone of this piece is just really not good. Nothing good, but still, it's not horrible crud either. C+
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4/10
A crashing bore
Ron-1814 November 2001
A lengthy piece of eye candy hardly worth the time. My better half fell asleep halfway through. I had to work hard to wake her..since she probably preferred to sleep for the last hour. Beautiful sets and scenery, but that's all it has going for it. Stultifying.
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4/10
A Cracked Bowl, Indeed.
slhughes2016 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Note: Spoilers ahead

I can't say that I have ever come across a film in which I felt every single major role was miscast until this one. Here we have the usual major Jamesian themes: European experience versus American innocence (or stupidity in the case of the merry band currently under discussion), the treachery of the human heart, and the poor young woman desperately in pursuit of her true love who, alas, does not have the one thing that she cannot live without. And by that I mean money. The true love becomes secondary in this case.

The sad fact is that there is not an instance when a word coming out of the actors' mouths seems sincere-or even rehearsed. I am one who nearly always forgives a poor accent, but Jeremy Northam's attempt at Italian-accented English and Angelica Huston's Southern accent cannot meet even my low standards. The Regency aristocrat and Gangster's Moll they have previously played so successfully are much closer to their true callings.

The plot is typical James (and if you haven't figured it out, James is not my favorite author)-Penniless Italian Prince (Northam) loves Penniless Heiress (Thurman) but must marry Fabulously Wealthy American Heiress (Beckensale) because her First American Billionaire and Art Collector Father (Nolte) is, well, a billionaire, and can afford to help Penniless Italian Prince fix up his run down palazzo. Now how about this for a plot twist: The Penniless Heiress just happens to be the best friend of the Fabulously Wealthy American Heiress, who doesn't realize that her husband was intimate with her best friend. In the meantime, Penniless Heiress ingratiates herself to First American Billionaire and eventually becomes his wife. Things move forward predictably from there.

The dialog and settings are so archly symbolic they seem almost silly. Case in point: The Prince walks into a dark room where his gullible wife sits and asks, `Why are you sitting in the dark'? Soon after, the light will come on in her dim but sweet little mind. And of course, as fitting with a Merchant Ivory production, there are enough plush costumes and palatial rooms to fill up the average convention center. The gasps, significant looks, and shocked, heartbroken expressions could also fill a bushel basket. By the time the first hour was over, I looked at my watch, expecting that I had been watching for at least three hours, such was the slow pacing.

Perhaps if Beckensale and Thurman had switched roles, things might have gone better, but aside from the rotten accents, Nolte looks like he would be more comfortable wearing a hardhat, flannel shirt, and jeans, perhaps leaning against the wall, drinking a beer at a San Francisco Gay Bar, talking to guys who look just like him. His modern haircut and facial hair, body language, and 20th century diction show him to be every bit as uncomfortable in the role as he must have been dressed in his evening clothes, as he was throughout the entire film. His relationship with Beckensale is just creepy, Freudian in the worst sense.

It is hard to say exactly why a film like this goes wrong. Merchant Ivory hits the mark so often one expects them to come up with a near masterpiece every time. Next time they need someone to play a broke Italian Prince, they might think about casting an English-speaking Italian.
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6/10
Tedious, but beautiful, period film
James10 January 2002
I had great expectations for The Golden Bowl, yet it seems that I felt as many others did.

The sets and costumes were exquisite -- the story just droned on and on without any connection between the characters. Kate Beckinsale was flat and lifeless, Jeremy Northam couldn't fool anyone as an Italian prince. His accent was all over the place. When he tried to sound somewhat Italian, it was cartoonish and contrived.

Too bad -- such an enormous effort for so little reward. TGB won't be loved or remembered years from now. It should have.

6 out of 10 for the elegant and richly detailed sets.
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7/10
Good adaptation with some editing and acting flaws
Maria Loreto Caro-Valdes22 January 2008
The film is very effective in conveying the spirit of the novel. By the end you will have that bittersweet taste in your mind, as it usually happens with Henry James stories... Not a single character can say that their heart is completely content.

Once again, as in other Merchant Ivory productions, the cinematography and art direction is impeccable. Also, the costume design is both classic and risky (Uma Thurman at the ball is exotic and sensual).

Now, the main flaw in terms of editing is pacing. While this type of narrative calls out for a slower pace, at times it just didn't feel right. It is like different hands took over parts of the movie.

As for acting, it is quite good in general. Kate Beckinsale starts out very stiff, but warms up throughout the story. As for handsome Jeremy Northam, his Italian accent seemed contrived and was a bit distracting.
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Jarvis = James? (Warning: spoilers ahead!)
timer6 June 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Warning: spoilers ahead!

It seems no-one here has yet noted the striking resemblance between Peter Eyre, the actor who plays Jarvis the shopkeeper, and Henry James, author of the book on which the film was based. It's just one great touch among many. When Jarvis offers the golden bowl to Charlotte and later sells it to Maggie, it's as if James himself, with infinite patience and compassion for his characters, has stepped directly into the story in order to impel it forward. (He bears something of a further likeness to that fellow past master of the mind game, Alfred Hitchcock; so it's reminiscent, in turn, of Hitchcock's own cameos.) Too bad the article in question is irreparably flawed, but it does produce an unintentionally hilarious association with a line from another bit of risky business: "There's a crack in my egg!"

You'll find this film boring if you find Henry James boring. That can't be helped. The question any modern viewer will be asking throughout, is: Why do all these people keep talking so delicately around an affair which is so obvious to the randy, piano-pounding Lady Castledean and Mr. Blint? (Sheesh, at least *someone* in this movie gets it!) Looks like an example of what I believe Larry Niven has termed literary cretinism. Today, the whole thing would come out in the first five minutes in a "nightmare of recrimination and violence" (as Hugh Grant puts it in Four Weddings and a Funeral), and the rest of the time would be spent with Adam's and Charlotte's lawyers divvying up the proceeds. What James' artificially mounted intrigue does, however, is to create the opportunity for some exquisite epistemological gropings-in-the-dark; count the number of times character A can be seen silently comparing the statements of characters B and C for inconsistencies. For insights into the deftly depicted, pivotal event of the deliberate breakage of the bowl, refer to Terence Cave's footnote on page 433 of Recognitions. He knows that she knows, and she knows that he knows that she knows ...

I have to confess, though, that it was the atmospheric, sepia-tinted archival footage of coal trains in the early twentieth century that stayed with me most after the credits had rolled. What a vivid, all-too-brief evocation of a place in the past so real, yet lost forever! Like Whistler's goaltended "big jam donut with cream on the top", their arrival gives us pleasure and their departure merely makes us hungry for more.
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The Golden Opportunity
Chrysanthepop9 August 2009
Having loved the splendid 'Howard's End' and the delightful 'A Room With A View', I always look forward to a Merchant Ivory film no matter what the outcome. 'The Golden Bowl' does not reach the level of the aforementioned two films but it still was a good watch. Ivory does successfully manage to create a feel of that time period. The sets and costumes look quite authentic. Through subtle references one can see how James Ivory has been influenced by classic movies. The story is about complex relationships, between a father and his daughter, between two former lovers and between husbands and wives. The characters are very well etched and layered and it is the mystery of these characters that has intrigued me the most. How long has Verver known about Amerigo and Charlotte's relationship? Since when has Maggie known? Did Charlotte have any feelings at all for Verver? The film does move at a slightly tedious pace but it picks up when Maggie starts suspecting the relationship between Charlotte and Amerigo. Northam's Amerigo takes some getting used to. I found him funny initially but once one is passed that he's quite good and terrific in the scenes where he's restrained. Uma Thurman sizzles. Charlotte may come across as a temptress at times but Thurman portrays her vulnerability and despair with gusto. Kate Beckinsale is equally fantastic. Hats off to Nick Nolte for a studied and subtle performance of a father who has to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to save his daughter's marriage. Angelica Huston makes herself noticeable. 'The Golden Bowl' may not be the best of Ivory Merchant but it's still an interesting period drama a fascinating study of characters.
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