Monday, September 12, 2011
Monday Movie Review-'A Room With A View' (1986)
Directed by: James Ivory
Starring: Julian Sands, Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith
A hopeless romantic since grade school, this movie is an inevitable choice as my favorite sweeping 'period romance'. I have adored it since I first saw it at age 15, and it is one film that has not diminished over the years. Now, I appreciate different things about it than I did as a teen, but it still appeals to the romantic sensibilities that I have never outgrown.
Initially set in 1908 Florence Italy, the story opens with young Lucy Honeychurch (Bonham-Carter) staring out of the window of the Pensione Bertolini-complaining of her view. She is touring the country with her elder cousin Charlotte (Maggie Smith), a prim and proper English spinster who is far more intent on preserving Lucy's purity than broadening her horizons. Lucy has a stifled passion for life that is only evident when she plays piano, but becomes more apparent when she meets George Emmerson, a young Englishmen who is also touring the country with his 'free thinking' father. Over the course of the few days in Florence, Lucy's life abruptly changes direction , much to the chagrin of her straight-laced cousin. The aftermath follows her home to England where she tries to get back into the groove of English society, even accepting the proposal of laughably sober Cecil Vyse (Daniel Day Lewis). But the passion of Italy soon re-enters her life and forces her to make some major decisions.
When it comes to love stories, it is hard to beat the sheer 'atmosphere' of this one. I swim in it. It simply envelopes you, from the opening credits and the gorgeous Kiri Te Kanawa arias placed strategically throughout the film, to the final satisfying moments. The lush musical score, the breathtaking Italian vistas, the perfect cast, the impeccable costumes...all these things combine to make a purely awesome cinematic achievement.
Though as a teen I was mostly drawn to the brooding hero and heroine of the story, as an adult I have come to realize how brilliant the supporting (Oscar nominated) players are, in the success of its execution. Maggie Smith is prude and proper perfection. Denholm Elliot (as George's father) is floundering and endearingly sympathetic. Daniel Day Lewis is a wonderfully memorable fop, Judy Dench a feisty authoress, and Simon Callow turns in possibly his best performance as the open minded clergyman 'Reverend Mr Beebe'. The dialogue (adapted from the book by E. M. Forster) is faultless, funny, and always entertaining. I think I've quoted it more than any other film ('Miss Teresa, you have flowers in your hair'...'We all have our little foibles and mine is the prompty settling of accounts.'). Merchant/Ivory has never had a more succesfully realized vision than this one, if you ask me (though critics prefer Howard's End and The Remains of the Day, it seems).
There are are moments of this movie that will go down in history as some of my all time favorites: The kiss in the barley field, the 'bathe' in the 'Sacred Lake' (hilariously honest nude scene), and the moment when Lucy finally confesses her 'muddled' feelings to George's father-among many others.
Because of that, the girl in me will never ever outgrow this one...and the woman in me will constantly find new things about it to love.
My rating: 10/10
Style Score: 10/10
Though the early 1900's are not my favorite time period for style, there is no doubt that the period costuming and hair styling are flawless. To so completely convey an era through modern film is a very special accomplishment.