The Golden Bowl (2000)
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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.
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.!!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.