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3.6 out of 5 stars34
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 7 May 2006
It's always interesting to do a comparison of the old and the new. Watching the latest version of The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone starring Helen Mirren, one can see how the social mores of the time can have a profound effect on what we actually end up watching on the screen. I was well prepared to rubbish this particular version, but in many respects this newer and sexier version, achieves a depth of story and character that the older version could never hope to achieve.

In this adaptation, the sets, locations and costumes are lavish - although there are less exterior shots in Rome in this one, perhaps because the City no longer resembles the setting of the original story. Director Robert Ackerman and writer Martin Sherman have obviously traded scene for deeper character development, highlighting the sexual intimacy that takes place between Paolo and Karen Stone.

While the basic structure of the first movie has been retained, certain elements have been shifted around and expounded upon. Karen's best friend Meg is now Christopher (Roger Allam) an effete man who is presumably modeled on Williams himself. Karen's husband Tom (Brian Dennehy) has a larger part to play, and his apology to her that he hasn't been that good in the "physical" department is a nice addition, as it makes Karen's middle-aged sexual awakening all the more justified.

Perhaps the biggest asset is the casting of Olivier Martinez as Paolo (covered up tattoo aside). Although Warren Beauty was good, Martinez just seems more compelling and authentic and he fits the role of the hot young gigolo as smoothly as the tailored suits that his client buys for him. And Anne Bancroft's turn as the Contessa, reduced to the position of procurer for wealthy old American widows, is a much more overtly mercenary and nastier, than Lotte Lenya's.

Mirren's Karen isn't as neurotic and fearful as Vivian Leigh's portrayal, but she is just as fixated on getting older, if not more so, and she comes across as much more sensual, and also willing to explore that darker side of her nature. Because this version was made in 2003, we get a lot more sex, which is good, because it's important to the story, and to the development of the relationship with Karen and Paolo.

Karen basically gets quickie sex whether she wants it or not - on the lounge in her rooftop apartment, in the front seat of a car on the way to a picnic, and up against a wall of a nightclub whilst she is bedecked in jewels and fur. There's some obligatory nudity, particularly shots of Mirren's bust, you get to see Martinez' taught, tight body.

The sex is steamy, if not a bit choreographed, and Paolo always initiates it before he ever hits her up for money. Of course, Karen falls for him and deludes herself into thinking he cares for her. The last part of the film is pretty much by the book - she obviously knows it will end, but she allows her heart to feel otherwise.

Another interesting emphasis is the decline of the Italian aristocracy and the bitter anti-American feeling. The Contessa and Paulo are proud people, they come from nobility, yet they have lost everything in the war - you get the sense that Paulo hates being a gigolo and that the Contessa hates pimping him out. In a later scene, the Contessa even cites the bombing and invasion of Italy by the Americans as the source of her destitution.

Overall, while made for the small screen, this version of the Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone really manages to capture the heart and desperation of Williams' work. He really seemed to like spinning these tales of once-beautiful, aging women, desperate for love and addictively pursuing affection, literally at any cost. This film - buoyed by Mirren's sensual performance and Martinez' earthy and sexy charisma - is a fine contemporary addition to the series of films showing the power and emotion of William's literary legacy. Mike Leonard May 06.
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on 9 December 2011
I bought this dvd on the basis of an Italian background and the fact that the delightful Oliver Martinez starred in this film, plus I enjoy Tennessee Williams works. It was also I gather an Emmy Award Nomination. I felt the acting was wooden, and although settings were very well portrayed, I was left with a feeling of total disappointment and gave it away to the local Charity Shop. I hope others do not feel the same way.
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Tennessee Williams' fame rests on his plays, but his short 1950 novel, "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone" is a small gem. The novel is not often read but it has entered the broader culture on film. It has been filmed twice, first in 1961 starring Vivian Leigh and then in 2003 for Showtime starring Helen Mirren. My admiration for Williams' novel led me to watch this Showtime version on Amazon Instant Video.

Williams' novel tells the story of an aging American actress who has lost both her beauty and her husband in a marriage that lacked sexual passion. She moves to post-WW II Italy where she meets a Contessa who introduces her to a series of gigolos. Mrs Stone falls in love with a beautiful young gigolo named Paolo who tries to use her for money. Mrs. Stone ultimately throws over Paolo and the Contessa but then takes a serious romantic and physical risk with herself.

The 2003 film follows the novel fairly closely. Unlike the novel, the film does not delve into Mrs. Stone's early life. Thus her character and motivation are not fully developed. But the film is romantic, with beautiful if subdued scenery and music, and it is convincingly acted. Helen Mirren as Mrs. Stone and Anne Bancroft as the aged, horrible Contessa give stellar performances. The leading men, Olivier Martinez and Rodrigo Santoro are also effective. The movie effectively introduces a Williams-like character, Christopher, played by Roger Allam. Allam has Williams' character and mannerisms down well.The brief portrayal of Williams is a good imaginative touch for the screenplay. The film includes a number of steamy sexual scenes, including partial nudity, that could not have been portrayed on screen at the time of the first film. Williams did not need such scenes in his book due to the vividness of his writing, but they are not out of place in the film,

This is a worthwhile film in its own right and it captures something of the loneliness, aging, and passion of its heroine. Admirers of Tennessee Williams and of his rare novel will enjoy this film. Similarly, viewers who enjoy this movie may be interested in reading Williams' beautiful short novel on which it is based.

Robin Friedman
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on 31 May 2016
I remember seeing many years ago this film starring Vivien Leigh and Warren Beatty and thoroughly enjoying it with the girls saying what a hunk Warren Beatty was. Now i have seen the remake and can quite honestly say that this is one of the rare occasions where the latest version is just simply the better and closer to Tennessee Williams Book.

The All Star Cast of Helen Mirren, who to me was simply magnificent as Karen Stone out performed Vivien Leigh and gave greater depth to Karen's character, while Anne Bancroft as the Contessa was excellent and Olivier Martinez as the gigolo just completely outshone Warren Beatty and i presume the girls today will think the same of him. I will not leave out Brian Dennehy as Karen's husband, whose role was small but very well executed and an integral part of the story, which leads me to add that i have not gone into the details as this has already been well documented.

The cinematography was excellent but the actual scenes of Rome were not as lavish as the original, but this did not detract from the film, with a satisfying musical score. All in all a great remake and would recommend this to anyone who enjoys good cinema.
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on 6 July 2014
A very wealthy middle aged actress finds a new lease of life in Rome after the unexpected death of her beloved husband. It was certainly better than I expected it to be, there are unusual parts and a mysterious character who keeps appearing. Unusual ending that leaves things open. Anyway, I don't know why its so expensive here (£13.99). Don't tell anyone, but I actually got it new from a certain '99p Shop'....I won't divulge the price ;)
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on 24 August 2015
Without doubt the worst film I have seen in which Helen Mirren is the leading actress. Both Helen Mirren and Ann Bancroft deserve a better vehicle for their talents than this excuse for a story.
The dialogue grates, the supporting cast are wooden and the plot is so predictable.
The incidental music is poor, repetitive and intrusive, giving the movie the feel of a cheap 'Hallmark' romance.
Leave this one on the shelf, there are much better movies to be seen.
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on 18 January 2016
A truly boring film. Nothing redeemed it - not the stellar cast, the glamorous setting nor the fact that this was the second time a film had been made of this play. In fact, I am amazed that anyone bothered to make a film from such a pedestrian and uninspired plot. A waste of the marvellous talent of both Helen Mirren & Anne Bancroft. Save yourself the money & do not spend it on this movie.
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on 7 October 2015
I saw the original version with Vivienne Lee and Warren Beattie many years ago. This was more explicit but didn't detract from the story and Helen Mirren was fantastic. Purchased (used) for fantastic price in excellent condition and thoroughly enjoyed it.
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on 17 July 2013
Not many film have a female protagonist who is allowed to age and to live a life outside conventions. Roger Allam as gay friend is the sugar on the icing.
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on 28 June 2016
An interesting take on Tennessee William's play with Helen Mirren in good form, but you have to suspend your disbelief at the hammy moments.
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