Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
United Kingdom, 1979. Merchant Ivory Productions. Screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, based on the novel by Henry James. Cinematography by Larry Pizer. Produced by Ismail Merchant. Music by Richard Robbins. Production Design by Jeremiah Rusconi. Costume Design by Judy Moorcroft. Film Editing by Humphrey Dixon. Academy Awards 1979. Cannes Film Festival 1979. Golden Globe Awards 1979. National Board of Review Awards 1979.
Dry adaptation of the novel by Henry James, about two European visitors, a brother and sister, who show up unexpectedly on the doorstep of their uncle’s house in Boston and are immediately the talk of the town. The brother (Tim Woodward) becomes a role model to the local gentlemen and begins a romance with one of the local young ladies, while his sister (Lee Remick) entertains a gentleman admirer while waiting for her divorce from a European count to come through. Are these penniless visitors truly as enamored of their hosts as they seem, or are they just using them for survival? A reverse of the typical Jamesian scenario examines Europeans in America instead of the other way around, and though it is one of his most entertaining and insightful novels, the movie version is lifeless. The Merchant Ivory team did a far better job with The Bostonians, but on the whole their adaptations of E.M. Forster’s novels succeeded a whole lot better than anything they were ever able to do with James.