Just another merchant-ivory movie
Jonathan Lapin | Brooklyn, NY USA | 04/06/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"basically your basic merchant-ivory adaptation of yet another henry james novel. as usual, you get fine performances (christopher reeve, vanessa redgrave, nancy marchand, et al) in impressive sets imprisoned in a static screenplay and even more "leisurely" direction. i respect the merchant-ivory movies, but rarely (there ARE a few, like "remains of the day") enjoy them.
If you never see it, don't kick yourself
Edward Aycock | New York, NY United States | 03/05/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Only two years after "The Bostonians" was released, Merchant Ivory came out with "A Room with a View," a film that perfectly captured the wit and feel of E.M. Forster's novel. Unfortunately, the film version of "The Bostonians" doesn't succeed as well in capturing the ironic and satirical tone of Henry James' novel.
This film is played straight and is devoid of humor. True, it's hard to translate Henry James to the screen but if that were the film's only problem, it may have succeeded. But then there's the matter casting. Vanessa Redgrave turns in a decent performance as Olive Chancellor, who pines for the friendship of Verena Tarrant and possibly doesn't even realize the deeper reason for her desire. But when you come upon Verena Tarrant, you become confused as to why Olive is wasting her time. Madeleine Potter may be a fine actress in other roles, but she is misacast as Verena Tarrant, a young woman who captivates everybody around her with her oratory skills. Potter has none of the magnetism needed for the role, and therefore it's even more ridiculous that there is such a struggle for her soul between Olive and her sexist cousin, Basil. As Basil Ransom, Christopher Reeve may be trying to atone for the early 80s misfires like "Somewhere in Time," "Monsignor" and "Superman 3," but Reeve's stiff performance isn't credible. Perhaps the best performance in the film is by Jessica Tandy as Miss Birdseye, but she's onscreen far too short a time.
The film is also poorly edited. There are very few transitions between scenes so don't be surprised if a character is in day wear one second, and a nightgown in the next with no break. And the ending of the film is ridiculously abrupt with none of the power of James finale.
The film does rate three stars due to its beautiful period detail, but unfortunately, it's the only part of this misfire that really shines.
Superman to the Rescue
Randy Keehn | Williston, ND United States | 04/15/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In my effort to watch all the movies listed in "The New York Times Guide to the Best 1000 Movies Ever Made" I have seen some classics, discovered (with the help of the NY "Times") some sleepers, and been bewildered by some clunkers. "The Bostonians" is close to belonging to the latter category. I confess that I have not been a fan of Henry James since I struggled as a teenager with "The Turn of the Screw". That book made me realize that I didn't care for 19th Century Literature (with the notable exception of the great Mark Twain). I was willing to see what a movie of a James book would be like. I came away with the impression that the movie is probably a lot better. The acting is reasonably good although I think that Christopher Reeves is miscast. What appalled me was that a movie about the origins of the modern Women's movement could be so attrociously depicted.
I'm no women's libber but there are real issues that were and still are involved within the evolving roles of men and women in society and "The Bostonians" succeeded in making a mockery of the whole movement. While little Miss Thespian is wowing the polite Boston Society in her effort to advance Women's Suffrage, a tall, dark, and (I suppose) handsome man is trying to get her to give it all up for the honor of being his stay-at-home wife. You'd think this is a no-brainer and, incredibly, I guess it turns out to be just that. In the process, the script and whatever other culprits there may be, give Vanessa Redgrave a role that seems to be to be tailored to show the strengths of a powerful and secure woman. Then they turn her into a wimpering incompetent who can't compete with Reeves's role as intellectually challenged man with no visible means of support. The inept way (how could it have been any worse???) that the film ends made me wonder what on earth was the point of making this movie???
Great sets and costumes don't make a great movie. However, they can wrap it up in such a pretty package that, with the adapted script of a "great" author, that sometimes we don't notice that the emporer has no clothes."