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Overall Rating
3.49

Awesome34.88%
Worth A Look: 25.58%
Just Average: 16.28%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 23.26%

4 reviews, 19 user ratings


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House of Mirth, The
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by iF Magazine

"A richly textured and fascinating world."
4 stars

Despite its title, there is nothing funny about the dark, sad view of social viciousness presented in THE HOUSE OF MIRTH. Director/screenwriter Terence Davies' adaptation of Edith Wharton's novel is quiet and astute as it chronicles the slow, complicated fall from grace of a sometimes misguided but fundamentally decent young woman.

Gillian Anderson, a world away from Agent Scully, plays Lily Bart, a popular and sought-after social belle in 1905 New York. Lily is supported by a wealthy aunt, but she feels she's not rich enough to make it on her own, so she's got to marry a wealthy husband. This puts the only man she really loves (and who really loves her), lawyer Lawrence Selden (Eric Stoltz), out of the running. Lily flirts with some dull suitors and lets herself be guided by married friends, unaware that these women have agendas of their own. With a few missteps of her own and a lot of outside manipulation, Lily finds herself moving from one disaster to another.


Novelist Wharton probably wasn't a feminist in terms that are conventionally understood today. However, the effectively-made point at the heart of MIRTH is that there's something very wrong when one gender has the option not to marry, while wedlock (desirable or detestable) is a matter of actual survival for the other.


Davies illustrates this notion sympathetically and dynamically without being didactic. It is much to the credit of the source material, filmmaker and star Anderson alike that even when we might disagree with Lily's choices, we understand why she makes them.


MIRTH also takes into account class distinctions and sexual hypocrisy, skillfully showing through action rather than telling through speeches. The film finds the drama in the nuances of human interaction, allowing us to notice the weight of small gestures and turns of phrase without melodramatic emphasis. Perhaps because the protagonist is vigorously active (if not always to her own advantage), MIRTH succeeds in maintaining a sense of forward momentum, rather than slipping into the languor that has marked some other Wharton adaptations.


The production values are sterling. Davies creates a richly textured, precisely detailed world of bygone days, immersing us in the physical and emotional environment of the piece. His pace is restrained but usually compelling. Once in awhile, the filmmaker seems a bit hypnotized by the beauty of his shots, sometimes letting the camera linger on changing patterns of light that are lovely to see but don't greatly contribute to the flow of the story.


Anderson runs the gamut from coquette to dignified, isolated figure to emotional wreck with vibrant conviction. She also achieves a touching rapport with Stoltz, and the entire cast achieves a persuasive period attitude. Dan Aykroyd, as a blustery businessman, is particularly notable, as is Laura Linney, who makes an excellent smiling predator. Anthony LaPaglia is fine as a blunt, slightly crude type and the estimable Eleanor Bron is formidable as Lily's disapproving aunt.

THE HOUSE OF MIRTH works as a specific tale on its own terms, but most viewers will be able to identify in broader terms with its heroine's desperation in the face of grim choices.-- Abbie Bernstein

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=4773&reviewer=119
originally posted: 02/22/01 01:27:07
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User Comments

3/11/16 Robert Tschinkel I have seen this film numerous times, Gillian Anderson gives the performance of a lifetime 5 stars
8/30/10 Winston Chesterfield "about an hour into it I gave up" - only review the first hour then Muskewitz. 5 stars
12/02/09 Tom Great movie 5 stars
4/09/08 ravenmad I cried at the end - she becomes a woman of integrity. Beautiful. 5 stars
10/03/04 Jinet awesome acting from the cast, excellent job on the plot but a very sad ending :-( 4 stars
8/25/04 sophy great movie, nothing for hollywood brainless movie goers. 5 stars
10/17/03 Phil M. Aficionado 25 minutes in, I gave up. So unbelievably dull and stilted and poorly acted. Ugh. 1 stars
5/20/02 Shrike Gillian is brilliant in this period tale of character and loss 4 stars
4/09/02 Vito Facia Stroonze This movie sucks smelly donkey ass! 1 stars
2/20/02 Xaver Anderson was fantastic. Great period piece. Loved the scenery and costumes. 5 stars
1/23/02 hum good story, good acting, nice to look at 4 stars
12/07/01 Jóse I think that is a good film about the pos-Victorian New York`s life 4 stars
8/18/01 Dave Gillian Anderson is horrendous in this film. She is not pretty at all either! 1 stars
6/15/01 cherilyn WOW! I was amazed at Gillian's performance as Lily... it's a must see! 5 stars
5/02/01 Afton good acting, but overdone 3 stars
2/24/01 Samir A Masterpiece. Those who don't like it are merely brain-dead philistines. 5 stars
2/14/01 Nora The most boring movie I've ever seen. Terrance Davies should be punished. 1 stars
2/12/01 Heather Gillian Anderson turns out a great performance as a socialite whose life turns upside down 5 stars
1/26/01 Boy In The Designer Bubble Hey skully you look damn sharp in your grandmother's dress 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  22-Dec-2000 (PG)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  14-Jun-2001 (PG)




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