The Golden Bowl [DVD] 
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Merchant-Ivory adaptation of the Henry James novel about European nobility and American wealth at the end of the 19th century. Italian prince Amerigo (Jeremy Northam) is set to marry American heiress Maggie Verver (Kate Beckinsale), and must therefore break with his longtime mistress Charlotte (Uma Thurman). The marriage goes ahead, Maggie falls pregnant, and the happy family divide their time between England and Italy. However, when Charlotte returns a few years later and marries Maggie's father Adam (Nick Nolte), trouble is sure to follow.
Henry James' novel The Golden Bowl is here adapted into one of the most beautiful films yet from the Merchant Ivory stable (and that's saying something given their penchant for fin de siècle subject matter). But it was an unwieldy novel and as a film it's flawed just like the titular bowl. The action centres on Maggie, daughter of American millionaire Adam Verver, who is married to the impoverished Italian nobleman Amerigo, who had previously had a secret affair with the poor but scheming Charlotte. The square is completed when Charlotte marries the widowed Adam. Although Maggie (artlessly played by Kate Beckinsdale) begins the film as a complete innocent, it is ultimately she who takes tacit control of the tangled relationships.
Nick Nolte brings a patrician quality to the part of Adam, whose main obsession in life is collecting objects of beauty and value for a museum he's planning in the States. Jeremy Northam's Amerigo is convincing without being likeable. It is Charlotte, however, who is the centre around which everything else revolves and Uma Thurman relies too heavily on her own charms and not enough on strong characterisation. In the end, she is not sufficiently magnetic for her role to ring true.
On the DVD: The Golden Bowl's sumptuous settings are a glory to behold, and beautifully captured here. The inclusion of original film footage from early last century adds tremendously to the period flavour and the behind-the-scenes interviews and brief film of Merchant Ivory's past endeavours add to the appeal of the package, though there are effectively no subtitles or language options. --Harriet Smith
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Top Customer Reviews
Italian Prince Amerigo (Jeremy Northam) is the impoverished owner of Palazzo Ugolini near Rome, unable to maintain the palace until, in 1903, he marries Maggie Verver (Kate Beckinsale), daughter of the first American billionaire, Adam Verver (Nick Nolte). The prince has previously had a secret affair with Charlotte Stant (Uma Thurman), a friend of Maggie. When Charlotte subsequently marries Adam, Maggie's father, both couples move to England, where three years later, Charlotte and Amerigo resume their passion.
The relationships among the four principals are explored with the same sophistication as in James's novel. Maggie's torment is fully revealed when she suspects an affair, and her determination to protect her father from this knowledge becomes an agonizing chore. Numerous symbols help to convey the trauma of the betrayal, from the history of the prince's castle, in which an ancestor found his young wife and his son in bed and executed them, to Maggie's dream of being imprisoned in a porcelain pagoda which has a crack.
Nolte shows surprising subtlety in his emotions as he suspects his wife's treachery, while Uma Thurman is passionate, reckless, and very seductive in her obsession with the prince.Read more ›
It tells the story of two impoverished lovers, Charlotte (played by Uma Thurman) and Amerigo, an Italian Prince (Jeremy Northam) who are marrying a rich American art collector (Nick Nolte) and his daughter Maggie (Kate Beckinsale). But since Maggie and her father have a very close bond, the former couple get to meet each other all the time and often are left alone by their spouses. Of course, their feelings cannot be kept hidden for long. Especially Charlotte can’t bear to be separated from her great love, Amerigo. The latter is torn between his young, innocent wife and the seducing Charlotte. He’s determined to make his marriage work and therefore struggles not to hurt Maggie, until, but already late in the story, he gives in to the passion that still binds him to Charlotte.
The movie is set against beautiful back-drops with a great love for details. Costumes, furniture, jewellery – everything is splendid and brilliantly recreates the fin de siècle atmosphere.
Concerning the cast, the greatest surprise for me was Nick Nolte, whom I never saw in such a role. He really gave an extraordinary performance as the paternal Maecenas, who is far too much in love with his old paintings than to satisfy the needs of Uma Thurman’s character, a vital, passionate young woman. Jeremy Northam is a convincing, elegant Italian aristocrat and intensely portraits Amerigo’s fight between the growing love for his wife and the charms of Charlotte, the respect for his father-in-law, the tender love for his little son.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Brilliant product. Will purchase again. Safe packing and prompt delivery.Published 2 months ago by John Aherne
This demanding adaptation of Henry James' most complex novel is not for everyone. However for fans of the author's allusive and illusive narrative it should provide great pleasure. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Adrian Drew
This is a gift for someone else. It arrived safely and I am sure will be OK but cannot speak from personal experience.Published on 5 Sept. 2013 by Mrs. E. A. Brockway