Terence Davies' The House of Mirth is a tragic love story set against a background of wealth and social hypocrisy in turn of the century New York. Lily Bart is a ravishing socialite at the height of her success who quickly discovers the precariousness of her position when her beauty and charm start attracting unwelcome interest and jealousy. Torn between her heart and her head, Lily always seems to do the right thing at the wrong time. She seeks a wealthy husband and in trying to conform to social expectations, she misses her chance for real love with Lawrence Selden.
This is a slow paced mesmerising film. If your only knowledge of Gillian Anderson is as Dana Scully in the X-Files then you are in for a big surprise. Firstly the lady can act, and secondly with great subtlety. If you have read the book then clearly the writer/director Terence Davies has taken a few liberties. But so much script has been lifted word for word from the novel that I think he can be forgiven any eccentricities. This is a story of manners in early twentieth century New York and environs. Everyone seems so decent and 'proper', but each plays their own manipulative game. No-one (with the exception of Sim Rosedale) tells the truth. As a morality tale it seems as relevant today as when Edith Wharton wrote it. Davies has succeeded in losing none of its mood or punch by transferring it to screen. Unfortunately I think this is a film that requires watching more than once as some explanatory scenes appear to have ended up on the cutting room floor. Generally the acting is excellent throughout though I felt that at times Davies's enthusiasm for detail hamstrung some actors where others appeared to have relished the close direction. This is a film to add to your personal collection.
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