14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Since the point of this version of "The Magnificent Ambersons" is to "restore" the scenes that were lost when the study cut the Orson Welles version from 148 to 88 minutes, it becomes impossible to judge it by a different standard in which we pretend this was the first time Booth Tarkington's Pulitzer Prize winning book was brought to the screen. Ironically, if the point is to emphasize those lost scenes, then viewers need to watch the 1942 version to help you recognize the scenes when they crop up; they mostly have to do with the way modern things like the automobile change the face of the town in which the Ambersons rule. Of course, most films suffer in comparison to the original Mercury Production.
This 2002 production is handsome enough, although it lacks the distinctive cinematography and art direction of the Welles' film. Bruce Greenwood cuts a suitably dashing figure as Eugene Morgan and Madeleine Stowe makes a tragic enough Isabel. My problem with this version is the same as it was in the original: I can never really accept the idea that Lucy Morgan, well-played by the fetching Gretchen Mol, would ever really want to have anything to do with George Amberson Minafer, played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. I will admit there are scenes in the later part of the film where Rhys-Meyers manages to find something charming in the character, and we do get into Lucy's thoughts on the matter at one point, but for the most part Georgie is played with such bug-eyed intensity that I find it impossible to believe his mother does not know her spoiled little brat is on a level all his own as a world-class jerk. The film also goes a bit too far with suggesting some sort of Oedipus complex at work behind their relationship. Isabel almost died giving him birth and could not have any more children; that is a reasonable enough explanation for what is going on here.
Yes, Jennifer Tilly goes over the top as Aunt Fanny, but then when your performance is going to be compared to that of Agnes Moorhead, who received Best Actress honors from the New York Film Critics Circle of playing Fanny in the original, you are pretty much doomed. James Cromwell has little of consequence to do as Major Amberson, but William Hootkins as Uncle George is a worthy successor to Ray Collins in the original. He might be the black sheep of the Ambersons, but that means he simply ends up being the most grounded member of the clan. However, it is from the performances of Greenwood and Mol that this version of "The Magnificent Ambersons" draws its strength. The ending of the film, when Greenwood looks into the camera as he speaks the words of his imaginary letter to Isabel, is certainly more effective than the rather awkward ending of the original. Anything that can end with such a note of grace deserves being watched. Furthermore, those who have never seen the Welles' version will be able to better enjoy this film since they will not be prejudiced by memories of performances past.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 May 2013
I am a huge fan of the Bruce Tarkington book from which this film was made, and this is my major problem with this film. If you have never read the book you will probably like it much more than I did. I am not a particularly huge fan of Orson Welles, but I did love his version of this because it captured the spirit of the book so perfectly. Having read that the idea of this was to fill in the gaps left by excessive editing of the Welles version, and made from his detailed screenplay, I was actually quite excited to see it. How disappointing. Yes some of the missing scenes have been put back in, but then some of the original ones have been removed or needlessly changed, and the speech annoyingly modernised. Most importantly the commentary, which Welles must have wanted in the film since he voiced it, was missing, along with the wonderful, opening sequence of his film setting the scene,(which is taken straight from the book). To me, at any rate, the whole point of the story is the change of the quiet elegant town of the 19th century into the heaving dirty city of the 20th century and along with it the changing fortunes of the Ambersons and their kind. The townspeople so wanting George to get his comeupance and him eventually getting it, "three times filled and overflowing", before he redeems himself, was the most moving part of the plot and a gaping omission from this film.
I thought the cast were all very good, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Madeleine Stowe in particular were perfect. The sets were good, although not as good as the original, but the atmosphere of the book was lost.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 26 December 2012
Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays an arrogant, spoilt son in this beautifully filmed version of the 'Magnificent Andersons' by Alfonso Arau. This film about an aristocratic family also tragically illustrates a young man with an oedipal complex. Rhys Meyers is at his best when he plays tantrums!
Great actors! Beautiful film!