Merchant Ivory Productions, The Criterion Collection, and Home Vision Entertainment are proud to present The Merchant Ivory Collection — This entertaining story from a delicious early novel by Henry James takes place in a N... more »ew England Arcadia that stands for everything beautiful, pure and good. Into this Eden come a sophisticated European brother and sister who turn up unexpectedly on the doorstep of their staid American cousins, the Wentworths. The fortune-hunting Eugenia (Lee Remick) and her high-spirited brother Felix (Tim Woodward) turn this Puritan world upside down. The film concludes with three betrothals, like a Mozart opera. But Eugenia has been too clever, and must return to Europe as empty-handed as she came.« less
ALL TALK...NO ACTION...ENTERTAINING, NONETHELESS...
Lawyeraau | Balmoral Castle | 08/29/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This beautiful adaptation of the Henry James novel of the same name is an early Ivory/Merchant film. It is beautifully shot with shimmering pastoral scenes that bring to mind some wonderful impressionist paintings. The story is likewise somewhat impressionistic and centered around two brother and sister expatriates, Eugenia and Felix Young, who come from Europe to visit their wealthy American half cousins, the Wentworths, in the very bucolic, very Yankee, suburban environs of Boston in the late nineteenth century.
The Wentworths are a rather strait-laced, prim and proper, wealthy family, whose head is the dour and mistrustful old Mr. Wentworth (Wesley Addy). The family welcomes their European cousins with some trepidation and reservation, as they seem positively bohemian to them. The one exception is Gertrude Wentworth (Lisa Eichhorn) who gravitates towards her newly found, sophisticated relatives. As a flower turns to the sun, Gertrude turns to her cousins to brighten her otherwise dull and narrow world. She is not disappointed.
Eugenia (Lee Remick) proclaims to be the Baroness Munster, an unhappily married woman on the brink of divorce. Her charming brother, Felix (Tim Woodward), is a rather artistic fellow with no foreseeable prospects. Together they take the Wentworths by storm and turn their previously well ordered, somewhat provincial world, upside down. This is a slow moving film that allows the story to unfold at its own, unhurried pace.
As Eugenia and Felix leisurely weave themselves into the fabric of the Wentworths' lives, changes ensue. During their stay, a romance develops between Felix and Gertrude. Her rebuffed suitor, Mr. Brand (Norman Snow), ends up finding solace in the arms of Charlotte, Gertrude's more eminently suited sister. Eugenia, however, who has set about to snare the Wentworths' attractive and wealthy neighbor, Robert Acton (Robin Ellis), is in for a very rude awakening.
Lee Remick, a vastly underrated actress, is delightful as the beautiful and predatory Eugenia. Tim Woodward is boyishly charming as Felix, the cousin who sweeps Gertrude off her feet. Robin Ellis is excellent as the thoughtful Robert Acton, the man who stands on the brink of a major life changing decision. Wesley Addy is very good as the suspicious Wentworth patriarch. Lisa Eichhorn's portrayal of Gertrude, however, is flat, as if she were performing in the throes of a zen-like trance. Yet, it does not detract unduly from the overall quality of the film. This is a film that those who love period pieces ahould enjoy."
An All Too Common Filmmaker's View of Puritan American
Joe E. Byerly | Pebble Beach, CA USA | 09/18/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This review was written by my wife, Melanie.
The best about this film is the glorious setting in a New England autumn when the colors of the trees are their most vivid. Interestingly, as revealed in an interview with Merchant/Ivory included on the DVD, the fall setting was not planned, but fortunately occurred because of production delays. The second best about the film is Lee Remick, who turns in a first-rate performance as the Countess Eugenia.
The script has problems, the main criticism being that some of the characters are not believable, such as the puritanical patriarch of the Wentworth family. He is the typical filmmaker's depiction of religious persons, especially devout Christians--stuffy, intolerant, anti-intellectual and foolish. This kind of silly sterotype detracts from the film's merits. Mr. Wentworth is reduced to cardboard caricature, when he could have so easily been a real, flesh-and-blood individual. This character treatment insults viewer intelligence, and is a weakness with some of the period Ivory/Merchant productions. While they are richly creative as far as the visual goes (magnificent locations, sumptuous costumes and great photography), they don't always give the audience the same quality when it comes to screenwriting and fleshing out the characters.
"Excellent descrition of the life in high class,very conservative and religious America late in the 19th century. As most of Ivory pictures it has beatiful settings and great views of nature and lifestyle of the upper very conservative class in North east coast America,however still naive to the european royalty or impostors."
Better than the novel
Nowhere Man | 12/06/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this movie in a theatre 25 years ago, shortly after having read Henry James' novel, and I remember how impressed I was not only by the movie's accuracy, delicacy, splendour and faithfulness to the novel, but also by the fact that it manages to "repair" some shortcomings of Henry James' early novel.
I have been longing to watch it again ever since, so I eventually bought the DVD. Redescovering it, I was surprised by its incredible freshness and newness, after so many years. It is, indeed, a superb adaptation of James' novel, and one of the most interesting Ivory/Merchant film.
The October New England landscapes are breathtaking, costumes have authenticity, dialogues are spontaneous, and the script features without effort or ostentation the differences between the European and the American mentalities and behaviours; the atmosphere is as genuine as it can be rendered in a movie.
Acting is exceptional; the gradual symptoms of love in the main characters (the two young Americans and their European cousins) are incredibly well expressed: we witness their delight, astonishment, fever, torments, doubts, pain. But far from being graphically shown, the feelings are mostly suggested, so we guess, beyond the self-imposed discretion and reserve, the strong dilemmas and the inner fights. The real drama and utter changes in the characters' lives are like whirlpools under the perfectly calm surface of a lake. This contributes to the (false) impression of slowness or stagnation of the movie--and this, in spite of the multitude of events that occur so naturally, "comme si de rien n'était".
The characters' strong individuality is well depicted, the Wentworths naivety and simplicity is touching, Eugenia's (Lee Remick--amazing!) sophistication is truthful. The ending (one marriage and one painful separation, the latter because of the beautiful European woman's "decadence") also represents a great achievement in the movie: managing to avoid any moralizing preach (or inference), the filmmakers offer an elusive, smooth, easily-flowing, almost smiling ending.
I strongly recommend this movie to anyone who searches aesthetic pleasure, subtle acting and also loves Henry James. "
Westley | Stuck in my head | 12/13/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
""The Europeans" (1979) was the first Merchant-Ivory adaptation of a Henry James novel and was later followed by "The Bostonians" (1984) and "The Golden Bowl" (2000). The story concerns a puritan American family, The Wentworths, who live outside Boston in the mid-1800s. They lead a quiet life filled with temperance and religion, but that all changes when their two European cousins show up for a visit unexpectedly. Artistic Felix Young (Tim Woodward) arrives first and immediately charms one of the Wentworth daughters, the homely Gertrude (Lisa Eichorn). When Felix fetches his sister, Eugenia (Lee Remick), who also is the Baroness Eugena-Camilla-Dolores Munster, she makes quite a splash with the simple Americans. Mr. Wentworth (Wesley Addy) is wary of Felix and Eugenia, but at the urging of Gertrude, he agrees to let them stay at a small house on the family's sprawling estate. We soon discover the reason for their visit - Eugenia, who plans on divorcing her Prince husband, is seeking a wealthy American to marry, which sets into motion the main plotlines.
In many ways, "The Europeans" succeeds and is rather enjoyable. The film has many outdoor scenes shot in various Massachusetts and New Hampshire locations, and the fall scenery is absolutely stunning. It's worth watching the movie for that alone. Merchant and Ivory always show an eye for detail, and the decorations, sets, and costumes are gorgeous - the film's only Oscar nomination was for Judy Moorcroft's costume design. They also got the tone of this comedy of manners nearly right; some of the scenes are genuinely funny and highlight the differences between the Americans and the Europeans. I haven't read the James novella, but the plot description of the book suggests that the movie is fairly faithful.
Unfortunately, the film overall often feels stilted, almost as if it were a play. The major debit is that the actors affect such different styles that they often feel as though they're acting in different movies. Some of this might be purposeful, to highlight the differences between the rough-hewn but disciplined Wentworths and the almost Bohemian Europeans; however, it also just seems poorly aced. Lisa Eichorn is particularly wooden and non-emotive. I actually enjoyed Tim Choate's performance as the immature uncultured Wentworth brother, but his acting doesn't meld with the other more uptight performances around him. In addition, the sets, while beautiful, feel stuffy and museum-like. The movie ends up feeling like second-rate "Masterpiece Theater" instead of first-rate Merchant Ivory. I'd rank "The Europeans" ahead of "The Bostonians," but far behind their masterpieces "Howards End," "A Room with a View," and "The Remains of the Day." "