Washington Square (1997)

AGNIESZKA HOLLAND

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5

USA, 1997.  Alchemy Filmworks, Caravan Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Roger Birnbaum Productions.  Screenplay by , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Toronto International Film Festival 1997.

Marvelously costumed, faithful adaptation of Henry James’ 19th-century novel is not as powerful as The Heiress thanks mainly to an overly-awkward performance by Jennifer Jason Leigh as heroine Catherine Sloper. Raised by her widower father (Albert Finney), Catherine is a painfully shy, plain young woman who comes to life when a handsome suitor () throws his amorous attentions her way. Dismissed by her father as a fortune hunter, Chaplin has no hopes of marrying the young lady unless he can actually prove that he loves her and not her money. Even more painful to bear is Catherine’s personal realization that her father thinks her of so little worth in the womanliness department that he would be so quick to assume that no one could ever truly love her. Agnieszka Holland’s direction doesn’t plumb the depths well enough, but James’ beautiful dialogue is truly infallible, and Maggie Smith gives a hilarious performance as Catherine’s meddlesome aunt.

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