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Worth A Look: 25.58%
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Sucks: 23.26%

4 reviews, 19 user ratings

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House of Mirth, The
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by Greg Muskewitz

"Anderson gives one of the most traumatic, excruciating performances ever."
1 stars

For the longest time, I was unable to descry whether The House of Mirth was a serious period piece, or if it was at the next corner, busting to jump out as a mock send-up of the genre like the squashed spoof Stiff Upper Lips. I watched, in disbelief, as Gillian Anderson, Dan Ackroyd, Eric Stoltz and Anthony LaPaglia were trying to be serious. I kept waiting for them to burst and break character, and although many of them and others neared it in pure amateurity, they were meant to be taken seriously.

If I had known who Terence Davies was, maybe that would have been a sign that I should be prepared for a serious filmmaker. But you see, I was unfamiliar with who he was, with his two "hits" Distant Voices, Still Lives and The Long Day Closes coming briefly before my time. Mirth, if you don't know, means merriment or hilarity, and if you are unfamiliar with Edith Wharton's novel, The House of Mirth is by no means a joy to watch or be a part of.

The drab and drearier tale is of a semi-well off spinster, Lily Bart (Anderson), refuses to marry anyone "lower" than her (Eric Stoltz's Lawrence Selden), but doesn't feel that it is necessary for her to settle down. She has a problem, a gambling problem that is, and such a thing is not very lady-like. So while she is constantly building herself into debt, she is oblivious to realize when she accepts the financial help from married man Gus Trenor (Dan Ackroyd) that he assumes she will return payment via an affair. ("Usually the man paying the bill gets a seat at the table")

Once Lily's aunt finds out of her activities, she instead makes Lily's cousin her benefactress and thus begins the continued sinking and drowning of Lily. Her place in society is considerable dropping moment by moment until the end of the movie when she's working at some tame version of a sweatshop and kills herself. Are we to feel sorry? No, not at all, but heavily relieved that this mess ended. Maybe the movie would not have been so horrible had the casting directors and Davies had any sense of who they were putting in the movie. The all the words that make the movie are terribly minced, gobbled and bedaubed by the hired "talent."

Worst of is Gillian Anderson, whose performance is one of the worst I have ever seen. I have seen some screen atrocities, but none come to mind as bad as her awful portrayal of Lily. I feel the utmost necessity to insult and attack Anderson so as not to attempt anything like this again. She does fine on television as Scully, and she did just fine in Playing By Heart as well. But here, everything from her movements to the delivery of her lines, to the way her lips crack look phony and preposterous. How can you feel for someone you don't believe is real or can't stand because of the horrible performance? One thing that I don't understand is how people can differ to the extremes when it comes to a particular performance. Many critics are screaming for an Oscar nod for her, while Entertainment Weekly named her as their special pick. How is it that she is believable to them, and not the slightest to me? I tend to believe that it's them trying to jump on to something they think is trendy, much in the same way they did with the awful Christian Bale in American Psycho. The majority of the public couldn't care less, and without apologies, what she "performs" is not professional and is not slightly convincing. Anderson is way out of her league, way miscast. None of the cast belong. What is Dan Ackroyd doing here? LaPaglia? Stoltz? Davies, as I've heard from others is a good director, but he sure is incapable of extracting a good performance --at least with this. Even Laura Linney cannot achieve sustenance; there is one scene in which she briefly shines, so much more than anyone else, but it is temporary and not meant to last. It's funny, because Linney was the one actor in The Truman Show in which I did not like, but with You Can Count on Me, she gave one of the best performances of last year. It just goes to show how an actress can grow.

The House of Mirth runs a little over two hours, and about an hour into it I gave up. I didn't leave, I stayed, not enjoying one bit of it, but I put the idea out of my head that this was going to get any better. The story is unconvincingly told, with a bad narrative by Davies, and bathos flowing about freely in the form of false and overdone pathos. The dreary tale is like Angela's Ashes in the sense that it takes your nose along some sooty avenues, rubbing it along in it to try and gain some sympathy or regret. It gets none. The actors kill the validity, and even from a technical standpoint --veritably dull and bland costuming, bleak and dark cinematography with the occasional nice exterior shot by Remi Adefarasin, und so weiter-- The House of Mirth reeks. A very unsatisfactory way to start the year.


Final Verdict: F.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=4773&reviewer=172
originally posted: 01/21/01 23:40:08
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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
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  22-Dec-2000 (PG)


  14-Jun-2001 (PG)

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