Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
United Kingdom, 1987. Merchant Ivory Productions, Cinecom Pictures, Film Four International. Screenplay by Kit Hesketh-Harvey, James Ivory, based on the novel by E.M. Forster. Cinematography by Pierre Lhomme. Produced by Ismail Merchant. Music by Richard Robbins. Production Design by Brian Ackland-Snow. Costume Design by Jenny Beavan, John Bright. Film Editing by Katherine Wenning.
Far from exemplary but solid adaptation of E.M. Forster’s posthumously published novel, about the titular young man (James Wilby) who awakens to his homosexuality while studying at Cambridge. His realization comes to him through the affections of fellow classmate Clive Durham (a debuting Hugh Grant), who later finds himself unable to go through with his relationship to Maurice; deciding that the ‘normal’ life is the proper way to go, Clive chooses a woman and marries her. Maurice, on the other hand, decides that all of the social fears, prejudices and, not the least imposing, police-enforced laws, are no match for his fearlessness to love as strongly as he pleases. Where James Ivory and his Merchant Ivory team falter the most is in not adapting Forster’s humour and wit from the novel, making this film a heavy-handed and (sometimes) ponderous approach to a very enjoyable piece of literature. Plot-wise, the only notable change is Ivory’s invention of a sequence involving Durham’s classmate (Mark Tandy) having a run-in with the law that clarifies legal context for modern day viewers (and also contributes to the overall feeling of dread). High points are excellent (as usual) art direction and costume design, a heavenly score by Richard Robbins and superior acting. Featuring a cameo from Merchant Ivory mainstay Helena Bonham Carter as a cricket match onlooker, this is the second of three Forster adaptations the team produced, after A Room With A View and before the best of the three, Howards End.
Academy Award Nomination: Best Costume Design
Venice Film Festival Awards: Silver Lion; Best Actor (Hugh Grant, James Wilby); Best Score