While on a train, a teenage boy thinks about his life and the flamboyant aunt whose friendship acted as an emotional shield from his troubled family. This film evokes the haunting quality ... See full summary »
The lives of an English working-class family are told out of order in a free-associative manner. The first part, "Distant Voices", focuses on the father's role in the family. The second part, "Still Lives", focuses on his children.
Davies' film is divided into three segments entitled "Children", "Madonna and Child", and "Death and Transfiguartion". The segments tell the life of Robert Tucker. The first segment looks ... See full summary »
Gillian Anderson plays Blanche DuBois in a prequel to A Streetcar Named Desire inspired by the Young Vic's production in which she starred. The film place takes place in the days before Blanche's arrival at her sisters Stella's home.
Robert Tucker, a sorrowful, solitary man, given to bouts of weeping, tries to balance his life caring for his aging mother, his Catholicism, his homosexuality, and his dull job. One night, ... See full summary »
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.
Reviews of this movie seem to fall into few categories, loved it because of Gillian Anderson, loved it because of the book, loved it because it was dreamy, hated it because I just didn't get it, hated it because of Gillian Anderson, hated it because it wasn't the book, hated it because it had no Arnie and wasn't Armageddon.
If you can't follow Edwardian English, if you can't follow a movie with scene shifts without a subtitle that says "you are now in London", "You are now in New York", if you can't read emotions off of actor's faces even when their words contradict their feelings, well, you're going to hate this movie. If you need a driving soundtrack to tell you exactly what mood you're supposed to be feeling for each scene, you're going to hate this movie. If you can't accept the fact that flawed characters develop but don't always overcome in the end, you're going to hate this movie.
OK, now that the summer action flic viewers have stopped reading this review in disgust (just as they left this movie early), we can get on with the review. I think Gillian Anderson was a good pick for the part, and did a very good, if not quite excellent performance. Part of Guilded Age/Edwardian upper-crust behaviour was the semblance of civility under the most trying of circumstances, such as saying "Thank You" when you've just been fired or otherwise dissed. Add that to the stylized English and you end up having to PAY ATTENTION to understand what is going on to get it.
One of the brilliant aspects of casting is the Gillian Anderson pick. Instead of a brilliant blonde or smouldering brunette, you have a non-conventional look (short, voluptuos and red-headed) that jolts (and excites) the modern eye, but actually better fit in to the pre-Chanel standard of beauty of that time.
At its heart the novel is a morality tale, describing the pitfalls of being beautiful, manipulative and shallow while failing to be cunning and wise. Lily Bart is callous to her suitors at first, only to fall into multiple social traps. In the end she relies solely on her integrity and dignity, which is insufficient to extricate her from her circumstances. This may offend many who expect the heroine to prevail in the end due to a simple basic morality (which is there in Lily), perseverance (which is also there), a clever plot twist and a 40mm grenade launcher (both missing).
Lavish sets, beautiful backdrops, gorgeous costumes, good acting (with the possible exception of Akroyd), all make this a surreal, if sad, journey for the cognitively aware and patient. I say "possible exception" because of one subtext of the novel & movie is the interplay of the American Nuveau Riche and the old nobility of England and Europe. Thus the wealthy American Entrepeneurs are depicted as brutish and obvious, though this is tolerated in society because their path was already blazed in the 1890's by the first wave of gold miners, oil drillers and electric company tycoons that swept through Europe and married into storied, if not monies, bloodlines. Thus, Akroyd's blatant and crude manipulations and language are somewhat justified.
But, if you don't like period pieces, costume dramas, and identifying with wealthy people who have never worked a day in their lives, all this will be lost on you.
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