A failing star is faced with a lifestyle change when her rich husband suddenly dies while they are en route to Italy. She then sets off in a series of flings with gigolos found for her by ...
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A failing star is faced with a lifestyle change when her rich husband suddenly dies while they are en route to Italy. She then sets off in a series of flings with gigolos found for her by an aging contessa. Each contact spirals further out of control until she becomes obsessed with one young man, who initially treats her well, but then with disdain.Written by
John Sacksteder <email@example.com>
The remaking of an old movie is justified if something is brought to it which was lacking in the original. The 1961 "Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone" was not an entirely successful venture. Unlike most of the other legendary Tennessee William's screen adaptations, "Roman Spring" originated as a novella rather than a play, making it trickier work for screenwriter Gavin Lambert. The relationship between ageing star and young gigolo could have been explored with greater candor. Despite the start quality of both Vivien Leigh and Warren Beatty there was a distinct lack of chemistry between the two.
There is no way a remake can escape comparison with the original. In every conceivable way this television remake is totally inferior. Casting Vivien Leigh in the role would have been mandatory at the time. Her unforgettable Blanche du Bois in William's "Streetcar Named Desire", together with her real life mental problems plus the last vestiges of her famed beauty would seemingly portend a great performance. But this all seemed to play against her in a mannered and predictable performance. Surely there is no lack of glamorous ageing stars of yesterday who could have had a field day with this role. Instead we have the distinctly unglamorous Helen Mirren, hopelessly miscast in a role she should have had the sense to turn down. A young Warren Beatty, working desperately hard at his Italian accent at least possessed virile sexiness, the stock of any self respecting gigolo. Here we have the pretty faced yet completely uncharismatic Olivier Martinez. There are hordes of spunky, hunky, and hopefully talented actors who could have injected a much needed dose of youthful bravado in this limp intergenerational affair. With this lackluster couple given center stage the movie is hopelessly sunk.
In the original, the Contessa, a pimp of inordinate greed, was played by Lotte Lenya with a thin veneer of social grace masking a menacing viciousness. Her scenes are the finest in the movie. Whoever cast the role in this remake must have thought the choice of Anne Bancroft as the Contessa especially adroit, with the expectation that she would tap into her Italian heritage. What they did not take into account were the many years spent in the company of Mel Brooks, plus a number of Jewish mother roles under her belt. There are moments when you may expect her to offer the gigolo in her stable a bowl of chicken soup while bemoaning the starving children in some far off country. It's a performance that makes one wince, especially with the memory of the inimitable Lenya.
Despite it's faults, the original "Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone" remains completely untouched by this pale and spiritless facsimile.
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