Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. United Kingdom/France/Germany/USA, 2000. Three Rivers Production, Granada Film Productions, Arts Council of England, FilmFour, The Scottish Arts Council, Showtime Networks, The Glasgow Film Fund, Diaphana Films, Progres Film Distribution, Kinowelt Median, National Lottery. Screenplay by Terence Davies, based on the novel by Edith Wharton. Cinematography by Remi Adefarasin. Produced by Olivia Stewart. Music by Heather Bownass, Adrian Johnston. Production Design by Don Taylor. Costume Design by Monica Howe. Film Editing by Michael Parker. Toronto International Film Festival 2000.
Be prepared for a very heavy experience when you sit down to watch Terence Davies’ adaptation of Edith Wharton’s tragic novel. Lily Bart (Gillian Anderson) is a single New York woman who naively pursues her pleasure while surrounded by people with more calculated aims. She comes to understand the cunning of her friend Bertha (Laura Linney), a woman who uses Lily’s innocence to cover up for her own extramarital infidelity, but when a twist of fate puts the ball in Lily’s court, she has the opportunity to use it to get out of her own trouble or maintain her personal standard. Anderson’s performance couldn’t be more vulnerable and moving, and watching this woman who simply cannot survive by hurting others really is unforgettable viewing. Davies’ feel for the period is letter perfect, though his turning Wharton’s sardonic and disconnected narrative into high tragedy will turn some viewers off.