6.0/10
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29 user 13 critic

Mrs. Harris (2005)

Based on the sensational 1980s media event, famed cardiologist Herman Tarnower meets a particularly brutal end at the hands of his jilted lover, Jean Harris.

Director:

Phyllis Nagy

Writers:

Shana Alexander (book), Phyllis Nagy (screenplay)
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at Amazon

Nominated for 3 Golden Globes. Another 6 wins & 32 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Annette Bening ... Jean Harris
Ben Kingsley ... Herman Tarnower
Cloris Leachman ... Pearl 'Billie' Schwartz - Tarnower's Sister
Lawrence O'Donnell ... Judge Leggett (as Lawrence O'Donnell Jr.)
Frank Whaley ... George Bolen
Bill Smitrovich ... Joel Arnou
Frances Fisher ... Marge Richey Jacobson
Michael Gross ... Leslie Jacobson
Ronald Guttman ... Henri
John Patrick Amedori ... Young David Harris
Brad McCoy ... Young Jimmy Harris
John Rubinstein ... Tarnower's Best Friend
Brett Butler ... Tarnower Ex #1
Lee Garlington ... Tarnower's Ex #2
Ellen Burstyn ... Former Tarnower Steady
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Storyline

Fact-based story about Jean Harris (Annette Bening), a woman who was accused of murdering famed Scarsdale Diet Dr. Herman (Hi) Tarnower (Ben Kingsley) after being in a relationship with him for 14 years. Depicted as a womanizer, Dr. Tarnower had earlier asked Mrs. Harris, a divorced school teacher, to marry him. But when faced with upcoming nuptials, he backed out. The story depicts Mrs. Harris as a distraught and obsessive woman who may have been suffering from some mental illness and based on a note sent to the doctor, may have been suicidal at the time of the murder. She contended that Dr. Tarnower was shot while the two wrestled with a gun she was going to use to kill herself. Contains profanity and sexual situations, including implied masturbation. Written by John Sacksteder <jsackste@bellsouth.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

She Loved Him, So She Shot Him.

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

TV-MA | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

HBO [United States]

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

25 February 2006 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Doamna Harris See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Ellen Burstyn received an Emmy nomination for her performance, even though her character only appears on screen for 11 seconds and has only two lines. See more »

Quotes

Arthur Schulte: I was asleep. You never expect one of those wee-hours phone calls informing you that... that your good friend's just been shot dead. When Lynne hung up, I said to Viv "Well, if he's dead why couldn't she have waited until morning?".
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Strictly Background (2007) See more »

Soundtracks

Put The Blame On Mame
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User Reviews

 
Best movie I saw at Toronto Film Festival
25 September 2005 | by WildConvergenceSee all my reviews

My husband and I sat through 20 films this year and this one, along with Michael Haneke's "Cache," was by a long way the best and the most surprising we saw. You go to a gala at a film festival and you're prepared for mostly safe stuff chock full of movie stars, so many of them, like curios in cabinets ("Walk the Line" and "North Country" are two such examples; there are others), that you lapse into a deep sleep just looking at the credits, knowing the exercises in taste and decorum that will follow. I wasn't encouraged by the cast list of "Mrs. Harris" but was really interested in the whole Jean Harris story so along we went to the screening.

For those of you who are not familiar with the tale, this is the murder of the Scarsdale Diet doctor saga in 1980. Jean Harris was an uptight headmistress who, so the media spun it at the time, in a fit of jealous rage drove from Virginia to New York in a blinding rainstorm and pumped the doctor full of bullets because he wanted to marry another woman.

What seems like a pretty straightforward narrative turns out to be anything but that, principally because of the way the story is told in this version and the incredible performances, not just from Annette Bening, though I have never seen such subtlety from this actress but also from Ben Kingsley, Cloris Leachman, Frances Fisher, Mary McDonnell and a host of others in truly perfectly judged cameos.

The first-time writer and director of "Mrs. Harris" never judges the characters and thus wisely puts the responsibility for making any judgments solely in the laps of the audience. The tonal shifts in this film are dizzying but never confusing and perhaps the most brilliant thing about it is the way in which you're seduced into laughing at or with all the insanity and then immediately are shown something that makes you question why you laughed in the first place.

It's not an easy ride or the most comfortable of films to watch, but it's one of the finest depictions of obsession, dependency and love gone wrong I've seen in a long time. It's not for everyone. My husband, who also loved it, had a heated debate with another couple we saw it with who hated it and mostly hated it because of the way it refuses to score easy victim versus villain points. It's divisive and from time to time you wonder about certain shots or the juxtaposition of certain scenes but these are minor quibbles. This is a debut feature that outclasses most of what I've seen in multiplexes this whole year. Go if you want to think and feel as a result of that thinking.

I heard a rumor that the film is not going to be released in movie theaters but will air on HBO. That, if true, is a pity because it's something that should be seen and the performances, writing and direction are first rate.


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