The second of the Merchant/Ivory films (A Room with a View
, Howard's End
deals with a theme few period pieces dare mention--a young man's struggle with his homosexuality. It's not just a gay coming-of-age story, however. The hero wrestles with British class society as much as his personal and sexual identity.
The film opens on a stormy, windswept beach, as an older man awkwardly instructs young, fatherless Maurice Hall (James Wilby) in the "sacred mysteries" of sex. The same turbulent, wordless struggle with passion lasts throughout this slowly evolving, beautifully filmed story. Novelist E M Forster's brainy, British melodrama hinges on choice and compulsion, as the pensive hero falls for two completely different men. First comes frail, suppressed Clive (Hugh Grant), who wants nothing more than classical Platonic harmony ... and a straight lifestyle. (Grant's performance is so convincing, one wonders how he ever became a heterosexual sex symbol.) After Clive's wedding, Maurice turns to hypnosis to cure his unspeakable longings. Unfortunately, his "cure" is interrupted by Clive's lustful, brooding, barely literate gamekeeper Scudder (Rupert Graves), a worker more at home gutting rabbits than discussing the classics. Maurice's love for a "social inferior" forces him to confront his illicit desire and his ingrained class snobbery. --Grant Balfour
United Kingdom released, PAL/Region 2 DVD: LANGUAGES: English ( Dolby Digital Stereo ), English ( Subtitles ), WIDESCREEN (1.78:1), SPECIAL FEATURES: Interactive Menu, Scene Access, SYNOPSIS: Set against the stifling conformity of pre-World War I English society, E.M. Forster's Maurice is a story of coming to terms with one's sexuality and identity in the face of disapproval and misunderstanding. Maurice Hall and Clive Durham find themselves falling in love at Cambridge. In a time when homosexuality was punishable by imprisonment, the two must keep their feelings for one another a complete secret. After a friend is arrested and disgraced for 'the unspeakable vice of the Greeks', Clive abandons his forbidden love and marries a young woman. Maurice however, struggles with questions of his identity and self-confidence, seeking the help of a hypnotist to rid himself of his undeniable urges. But while staying with Clive and his shallow wife, Anne, Maurice is seduced by the affectionate and yearning servant Alec Scudder, an event that brings about profound changes in Maurice's life and outlook. Sparkling direction by James Ivory, distinguished performances from the ensemble cast, and a charged score by Richard Robbins all combine to create a film of immense power, one that is romantic, moving, and a story of love and self-discovery for all audiences. SCREENED/AWARDED AT: Oscar Academy Awards, Venice Film Festival, ...Maurice