Riveting performances from an all-star cast highlight this passionate tale of a young heiress who must choose between love or money! Jennifer Jason Leigh (SINGLE WHITE FEMALE) is Catherine, a lonely young woman in search o... more »f happiness ... until she is swept off her feet by the handsome Morris Townsend (Ben Chaplin -- MURDER BY NUMBERS, THE THIN RED LINE). Suspicious of the young man's true intentions, however, her controlling father (Albert Finney -- ERIN BROCKOVICH, TRAFFIC) threatens to disown Catherine if she follows her heart and marries against his wishes! You're sure to find this timeless story both powerful and entertaining.« less
Perfectly played by all, staying true to the novel
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a great fan of Henry James, I much preferred this new film version of his story, rather than "The Heiress," whether that film is considered a classic or not. Other critics on this page have panned the new version, writing that it lacks subtlety, but what is so subtle about Morris bashing on the Slopers' front door and yelling at the top of his lungs, which is what happens in "The Heiress"--and certainly does NOT happen in the novel. For me, Jennifer Jason Leigh more closely captured the clumsiness, social awkwardness, and sensitivity of the novel's main character, more so than Olivia de Havilland's woman of steel out for revenge. The cast of the older film are all fine actors, but the screenplay was the clumsy one there. The cast of the newer Washington Square are all pitch-perfect, as if they had lifted their characters directly from the novel. Maggie Smith is truly amazing in her comic role as the aunt."
FATHER KNOWS BEST...
Lawyeraau | Balmoral Castle | 02/04/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Washington Square is an engaging period piece, with wonderful performances to be had by Albert Finney, Maggie Smith, and Ben Chaplin. The only jarring note here is the performance by Jennifer Jason Leigh, who lacks subtlety and is so heavy handed as to be distracting. This movie closely follows Henry James' novel of the same name. Albert Finney plays a wealthy doctor, Austin Sloper, whose wife died giving birth to their daughter, Katherine, an only child raised by the imposing Doctor Sloper with the assistance of the Katherine's maternal, but silly and vapid Aunt Lavinia, beautifully played by Maggie Smith. Katherine, a shy and clumsy child, desperately wanting, but lacking, affection from her imperious and distant father, grows up to be a plain faced, graceless, and awkward, young woman. As played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, she is a caricature rather than a fully fleshed character. Her portrayal of Katherine shows her lack of skill as an actress, especially when compared to the finely nuanced performances given by the other actors.When this clumsy, plain jane is wooed by the dashing, but penniless young hunk, Morris Townsend, she falls hard and wants desperately to marry him. Silly Aunt Lavinia encourages the romance and aids and abets the lovers, curiously fulfilling her own romantic fantasies, while assisting her niece in fulfilling hers. Her father, however, pegs the handsome Mr. Townsend as a fortune hunter, because, he reasons, why else would Mr. Townsend want to marry his graceless lump of a daughter? Needless to say, what follows is the cat and mouse game Dr. Sloper and Townsend play with each other, as well as with Katherine. Father threatens to disinherit daughter, and daughter swears she will marry suitor, despite father's threats. Suitor equivocates on the issue of whether disinheritance will cool his affections for Katherine. Does he do so out of love for Katherine or self interest? Suffice to say, while Katherine ends up finally getting some backbone in the end, one must ask who is the the ultimate victor in this drama. In my book, Father wins hands down and has the last laugh from the grave.All in all, this is a handsome and, for the most part, well acted period piece that will be enjoyed by those who love this genre of film."
Very Good Adaptation of Henry James's Tragic Story
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 12/26/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I waited for the Japanese release of this Henry James adaptation of "Washinton Square", but after 5 years I see no news of it. Now I bought a video of the film, to find the reason why this was neglected in our Japanese market. Well, though I still don't know why, I think I can somehow understand the distributors' unwillingness to release this one.Because the film is a mixed bag. Not that "Washington Square" is a bad film. On the contrary, I would rather like to praise it, but with some reservation. First, remember, the story, based on one of James's earlier works of the same title, is a tragic one. Jennifer Jason Leigh is Catherine Sloper, whose father (Albert Finney) is a respected doctor in New York City of the early 19th century. Though Catherine is a good girl (morally, I mean), she is never praised as a beautiful girl, and she knows it, too. Though her father Dr. Sloper is not cold-hearted, he is emotionally detached from his only daughter while she is desperately seeks for his approval. Thus their life goes on at Washington Square in New York City.Until a handsome man meets Catherine at a tea party, where he advances to her with a golden smile and skilled conversation. He is Morris Townsend (Ben Chaplin, "Lost Souls"), who, it seems, lived a wild life in the past, but now, he says, is back as reformed. Catherine falls in love for the first time in her life, and he says he is willing to marry her, but her father suspects that this young handsome guy is just a cad, good for nothing and after the money which she is to inherit after his death. But is he (doctor) really right in sternly rejecting him and his daughter's wish?The story is melodramatic, but that is not the point. Director Holland allows the actors to be characters they play, so that they realize the complicated relations which are subtlely described in the original book. Certainly it is slow-moving, but if you pay attention not to the plot, but to the emotional changes happening in these people, you will enjoy the film. After all, James is not famous for gripping storytelling; it is his characters and the relations between them that we care, and the film deserves our praise very much for the reason that it brought them to very real thing on screen.But the praise is not unconditional, for there are some questionable decisions made in the film. Holland rendered the piano recital scene a very embarrassing one (like "The Exocist"), but that is totally unnecesary (and the original book does not have Catherine humiliated that way). Casting is also strange. Jason Leigh, herself very good, is, I am afraid, a bit miscast because Catherine should be, I thought, a little younger. Ben Chaplin and Albert Finney are good, but Maggie Smith's meddlesome Mrs. Penniman, who gives some comic (but slightly cruelly depicted) taste, looks uncomfortable. Probably that is because we see her playing more serious, no-nonsense characters, as she did in "Secret Garden" "Gosford Park" and others.Though this is not as good as William Wyler's "The Heiress", director Holland made a splendid job here. Some of the camera work is also superb (see the sweeping movement of the opening scene), but sometimes her direction goes too far, as I pointed out. But as a whole, a very good costume drama."
lady-sweet | Nowhere | 04/08/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Jennifer Jason Leigh stars as Catherine Sloper,a clumsy,shy and innocent only daughter of Doctor Sloper(Albert Finney). Her mother died at her birth and her father doesn't seem to like Catherine much. Morris Townsend(Ben Chaplin)falls in love with her but he's not rich and her father starts to believe that Morris just wants to marry Catherine for her money. If she marries Morris her father will disinherit her. What will Catherine do? The performances of Jennifer Jason Leigh and the handsome Ben Chaplin are fine. So is Albert Finney role as the strict father. The music of the movie is beautiful. Though the ending was not what I expected,(I actually felt disappointed)I actually can say that I liked the movie(after I watched for the second time). If you like period movies, like me, you should take a look at Washington Square."
Loved it until I read the book
SaraphinaR | Los Angeles | 01/31/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Honestly, this was one of my favorite films until I read the book, and it brought to light two things that I think the director really messed up on. 1. Catherine Sloper was nowhere near as socially retarded in the book as she was in the movie. In fact, as someone said, in the movie they practically portray her as being borderline mentally challenged. In the books her faults were not as exaggerated, and consisted of her plain looks, dull personality and occasional lack of a witty retort (which happens to all of us save for those annoying few who always have the perfect thing to say). Otherwise I would characterize her, especially in comparison to her flighty aunt and cold-hearted dad, as the only normal one in the house. While everyone else was making the situation with Morris more of a drama than it needed to be, Catherine was taking things as they came and letting them go as they went. She grows from naive girl who adored her callous father to a secure woman. Also, while in the movie they portrayed her dress sense as evidence of her social ineptitude (the scene where she goes to the party where she meets Morris in that awful fringed thing), in the book it is an admirable eccentricity, and proves that she is not as boring as she seems. 2. While Albert Finney does a great job of capturing Dr. Sloper's callous sarcasm, he doesn't (and again, I think this is the director's fault) really capture the type of psychological game he is playing with his daughter. In the book, Dr. Sloper detachedly views the goings on between his daughter and Morris as a kind of entertainment, a play that he wants to see if he guessed the correct ending to. In return, as Catherine realizes what as asshat her father is (can I say that here?), she begins to play the game with him, telling him when he is near his deathbed that she can't promise she won't marry Morris after he dies (This scene also takes place in the movie, but the way it is acted out you get the sense that Catherine is saying this because she hasn't let Morris go yet - the director hasn't developed the character enough to make the viewer believe she has the intelligence to play her dad's own game). In terms of praise, the performances by Maggie Smith, Albert Finney and Ben Chaplin are great. To quote another review again, Ben Chaplin really has you wondering what exactly are his character motives (even though deep down you know he wants her money, like the naive Catherine, you continue to want to believe everyone is wrong). I admit I picked up the book in the first place because I wanted to get a better handle on Morris and his intentions! Also, the soundtrack is just gorgeous."