on 6 January 2006
I watched this as a result of seeing Gillian Anderson in Bleak House where I was astonished by her excellent performance as Lady Deadlock. In this film she portrays the unfortunate Lily so well that it was impossible not to feel for her and her situation as an single girl with no money, having to find a husband. Her situation is compromised by the husband of one of her so-called friends and her depiction of the consequence of this was masterly.
on 28 March 2001
This film is one of the best movies to have been made in recent years - it is simply fantastic. Not your typical costume drama, it follows the life of Lily Bart, a womam fighting to keep her place in society, but unable to bring herself to marry someone she doesn't love just to remain in it. This is a love story, but it is also a very cutting social commentary which discusses ultimately the importance of staying true to ones self no matter the consequences or the preception of others. Gillian Anderson is wonderful, in a very un-Scully like role and Terence Davies unusual style of directing very close camera angles and long conversational scenes creates a beautiful film, which was sadly overlooked in the Oscars this year. The DVD includes interesting (and in one instance essential) extra scenes, a directors commentary, interviews with the stars and crew, behind the scenes footage and Gillian Anderson's acceptance speech for a best actress award. I sought out this film 4 times at the cinema and went to its British Premiere at the Edinburgh Film festival - what bigger recommendation can I give? Just buy it :)
on 17 September 2008
I first watched this film with no idea as to the story, other than what is written on the back of the DVD box. And I am so glad I did. Having now read the novel upon which it is based, I have to admit it is one of the very best adaptations I have ever seen. The music, costumes and script are perfect and the acting superb. Gillian Anderson gives a particularly stunning performance as Lily Bart, the tragic heroine.
I have chosen not to give away the plot in the hope you'll take my word and give it a go, but I challenge you not to cry.
on 6 January 2005
A wonderful screen adaptation of Edith Wharton's splendid novel, this film harks back to the finest Merchant Ivory productions or Martin Scorsese's "The Age of Innocence." It follows the fall from disgrace of Lily Bart, an impoverished socialite whose thirst to accomodate to the constraints of her milieu drives her to make bad choices, and the subtle power plays that underlie the interactions within this aristocratic clique. There is enough psychological material to set you thinking for days. The dialogues are simply memorable and the lavish period settings and costumes are a sight to sore eyes. I couldn't recommend this film high enough, especially for those fond of period films.
on 25 August 2005
Writer-director Terence Davies has done a superb job of adapting Edith Wharton's brilliant novel for the screen. Rarely deviating from the source, much of the dialogue is as Ms Wharton wrote it. Set in the Gilded Age of 1905 New York, the film portrays the closed, repressive society of the wealthy aristocracy at the dawn of the 20th century. It is also the story of the downfall of one woman, who attempts to live by her own rules, with no sponsor and no money of her own.
Lily Bart (Gillian Anderson) is one of society's most beautiful and accomplished women. She is searching for a rich husband but is drawn to Lawrence Seldon, (Eric Stoltz), a man whom she respects and could love. Seldon, however, is a mere barrister, whose lack of income makes him entirely unsuitable as a spouse. "Why is it when we meet we always play this elaborate game?" Lily asks Lawrence, at one point. The answer is that the claustrophobic world they live in gives them no other choice.
Therefore Lily is forced to explore farther afield for available suitors in the limited circle of her acquaintances. As expected, she is popular with both bachelors and married men. Most of the bachelors propose marriage at one time or another but, on each occasion, she cannot bring herself to marry a man she despises. Though she has little money, she has family connections, good breeding and the hope of coming into an inheritance. Lily has been brought up to be an ornament, as were most women of her class at that time. She is a gilded bird with a noble heart, but clearly she is not aware of the restrictions of her cage. Part of Lily's tragedy is that she does have character, spirit, and a conscience. However, she does not know how to align these attributes, with her ornamental avocation, and her ambitions to marry a wealthy man of good birth.
Lily has developed a gambling habit to support her lifestyle, and to supplement her allowance. An unfortunate losing streak has put her into debt. In her naivete, she forms an unsavory business alliance with a married man, Gus Trenor, (Dan Aykroyd). Later, she is unjustly accused of having an affair with him and their business arrangement also come to light.
Her family cuts her off without a penny because of the scandal. Society friends and connections reject their former darling, trying to extricate themselves from any repercussions Lily's indiscreet behavior may have on their reputations. The irony is that Lily has never committed any of the sins she is accused of. Several friends have done far worse...but with maximum discretion. Lily's crime is indiscretion. Her beaus disappear, as do her marriage prospects. When, in desperation, she reconsiders and decides to accept the proposal of Sim Rosedale, (Anthony LaPaglia), an ambitious and kindly businessman, he is no longer willing to offer her the position of wife, only mistress. The hypocrisy of her class becomes more apparent to her, as she searches for a means to survive, with all the familiar doors closed in her face.
Lily's descent, from society's darling to a penniless, friendless woman is terribly realistic and heartbreaking. The decisions she makes to resolve her situation are astonishing and make the storyline all the more fascinating. You have to see this movie for yourself to discover what happens to our heroine. Director Davies' suffuses the film with an almost unbearable sadness which really captures the tragedy and waste of Lily's life.
Gillian Anderson's performance as the doomed Lily is superb. Lily Bart is one of my favorite literary characters, and I was pleasantly surprised at the former "X-Files" costar's portrayal. Her presence is felt in almost every scene and she is captivating to watch. Laura Linney delivers as the vicious hostess Bertha Dorset, and Elizabeth McGovern is terrific as one of Lily's confidantes. The production design is sumptuous. Kudos to cinematographer Remi Adefarisin, who got an Oscar nomination for "Elizabeth." Eric Stoltz' portrayal of Seldon is somewhat stiff. I, personally, would have liked seen another more charismatic actor play Lily's love interest. This may have to do more with my taste in men than with Mr. Stoltz's considerable talents. however.
This is an extraordinary film. Highly recommended! And by all means check-out the novel if you have not already read it.
on 18 June 2001
Director Terence Davies sensitively directs a fine group of actors who portray the characters in Edith Wharton's most famous novel. THE HOUSE OF MIRTH is an excellent art house presentation with the added allure of Gillian Anderson in the uncharacteristic role of Lily Bart-----a beautiful, vulnerable, but shortsighted woman who knows what she wants but is driven to pass up every opportunity for a "brilliant" marriage to a scion of New York society. Miss Anderson's personality is a bit too modern for the role of Lily, but she does a commendable job in the part. There is perhaps a bit too much of a feminist message in her comments on a woman's role in society. We are, after all, seeing the events of a century ago, and judging the past by present day standards always gives the sense of belatedly condemning history. But despite the cross-cutting of emotions, class and subtle sexism, the general theme of the story is that most people find out the truth about themselves and their milieu too late.
Eric Stoltz is remarkably affecting as Lawrence Seldom, a man who understands Lily, the world, but not himself. The scene in the garden at the Trenor party ... is one of the most memorable I've seen in years.
Anthony LaPaglia as the social climbing businessman and Dan Aykroyd as the lustful Gus Trenor are right on the mark with their characters. Terry Kinney as the weak-willed George Dorset has an understated intensity that few actors could successfully convey. Laura Linney as his malicious and scheming wife Bertha turns in an excellent performance as the woman who dramatically delivers the coup de grace to Lily's social ambitions.
The standout for me, though, is Jodhi May who plays Grace Stepney. Her face can show conflicting nuances of emotion that deeply affect the viewer. Where has this actress been hiding? There are scenes between her and other actors where she is saying one thing, yet conveying quite a different meaning to the audience through her facial expression that are positively heartbreaking. One scene in particular has her turning Lily down for a desperately needed cash advance in the full knowledge that her denial will end in tragedy for Lily. She denies her the money for supposedly moral reason, yet has tears of regret in her eyes because of the jealousy that is making her do it. Portraying a conflict of emotions in a single character is a rare talent and Miss May's ability is magnificent.
Let's hope we see more of this very gifted actress and that her next role will be more prominent. Hers is a performance not to be missed in a film of great emotional depth.
on 11 October 2010
For those of us who have watched the 200 episodes of the X Files, and the two movies, sometimes several times over, it is no surprise to find Gillian Anderson
producing a ravishing performance in her role as Lily Bart. Admirably supported by a well-chosen cast and directed precisely by Terence Davies. Why would those
about to make a film of such quality choose anyone but an actress of Gillian Anderson's consummate abilities?
I came late to "The House of Mirth" and am pleased not to have missed the film. Unfortunately in recent decades all the traditional superlatives that one might
use to describe such a performance have become devalued. One searches for adjectives less commonly used hence my choice of "sublime" in the title to this review. The other part of my title are words spoken by Gillian Anderson in her acceptance speech for the "Best Performance by an Actress in a British Independent Film" in the British Independent Film Awards (BIFA) in 2000. Her characteristic humility, so rare in the acting profession, is obvious as she departs stage right!
The sets and settings are wonderful when viewed on a Blu-ray player and it's disappointing that the transfer to Blu-ray has not happened. The ladies' costumes in particular are divine and at times quite breathtaking in their beauty.
Those reviewers who find the pace of this film too slow should receive our sympathy. The slower pace of days gone by gave time for reflection, time for thought and time to cherish the life we have. The enchanting performance of Gillian Anderson could have gone on for hours. As Lawrence Selden said to Lily in a memorable woodland scene "You're such a wonderful spectacle."
on 21 January 2009
This is truly a visually stunning drama. With the most beautiful costumes and decors. And drama it truly is! We meet the attractive and charismatic Lily Bart, convinced and determined of her success. She has flaws though, for she has morals! And she is willfull. Lily lives in class society, with limited means. she must capture the rich and respectable husband her beauty entitles her to. She must please the right people. She must satisfy her aunt who supports her. She must be vigilant. she must shake off an infatuation with an unsuitable (poor) man. She must play the game. she must make friends of the most venomous and dangerous people. She fails, she falls.
There will be tears.
In this lavish and beautifully costumed period piece based upon Edith Wharton's novel of the same name, Gillian Anderson gives an inspired and luminous performance as Lily Bart, a rising young New York socialite who is ultimately done in by a ruthless friend, deliciously played by Laura Tinney, who cruelly sacrifices Lily to save her own reputation.
The dry repartee in which Lily engages and passes for wit in this bygone era sets the tone for the film. It is a carefully orchestrated show in which marriageable society girls engage in order to snag the wealthiest suitor. While Lily Bart is the cream of the crop, she has the misfortune to have given her heart to a socially acceptable, yet financially constrained, lawyer, Laurence Selden, wonderfully portrayed by Eric Stoltz. Her heart claimed by this most unsuitable of suitors, she dallies, refusing to commit to any others, while her star is still in the ascendant.
Lily finds herself making an unwise financial transaction, which puts her at the mercy of an unscrupulous and smarmy financial investor named Gus Trennor, well played by Dan Akroyd. When he puts Lily in a compromising position in return for the money he now claims that she owes him, she indignantly spurns his advances and incurs his enmity. Meanwhile, her aunt, upon whom Lily is financially dependent, hearing of her financial indiscretion, is appalled and virtually cuts Lily out of her will, leaving her a small determinate sum, rather than making Lily her sole heir as expected.
Meanwhile, her friend, devilishly played by Laura Tinney, is on the verge of having her marital indiscretions made known to her circle of society friends. She throws everyone off the scent by cutting her friend Lily in a most public fashion with all the attendant insinuations from which much may be inferred. This has the net effect of causing Lily to fall totally into social disgrace. Her star is now very much on the descent.
When her aunt dies, and Lily is left virtually penniless, Lily finds herself alone and on a downward spiral, forced to earn her daily bread for the first time in her life. Abandoned by her friends, she despairs, even though she has the means of regaining her former status at her fingertips, would her information not also sully the reputation of her true love, Lawrence Selden, as well as that of the false friend who brought her to this point. To her detriment, she takes the high road of love and honor. Too late, Selden realizes the sacrifice that Lily has made on his behalf.
What happens to Lily and why is an interesting study of human frailties, class consciousness, social status, and honor. This film is a beautifully and richly costumed period piece with bravura performances by the entire cast. Those who are fond of period dramas will surely enjoy this leisurely paced, well orchestrated film.
on 19 June 2007
This film is another masterpiece from Terence Davies. As one would expect from a Davies film, it is visually ravishing, marked by hypnotic dissolves, precise compositions, and elegant, stately camera movements. As one might not expect, it focusses on an upper-class mileu, and is full of dialogue (the characters in Davies' previous films have tended to be somewhat taciturn). It is very moving, and brilliantly acted - with standout performances from Dan Ackroyd, Gillian Anderson, and the sensational Laura Linney.
In response to a couple of claims from one of the reviews below: the film did receive a number of awards at a number of film festivals (see IMDB for a breakdown), and also acheived a great deal of critical acclaim (from The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Time Out, Jonathan Ross on Film 2000, and so on). Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I think these claims need to be corrected.