Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Before I Die #516: A Room with a View (1985)


This is the 516th of 1,149 films on the "Before You Die" lists that I've watched. 

Director: James Ivory

Not exactly my kind of movie, but it does what it sets out to do very well.

Based on the 1908 novel by E.M. Forester, A Room With a View is a well-done adaptation that hits all its marks. It tells the story of Lucy Middlechurch (Helena Bonham Carter), a young, English middle-class woman who becomes embroiled in a classic "which man should I marry?" quandry. The opposing forces are what any fan of such period English tales would expect: marry for love or to meet social expectations and find financial security? For Lucy, these two sides are represented by the free-spirited and exuberant George Emerson (Julian Sands) and the priggish, upper-class Cecil Vyse (Daniel Day-Lewis).

Just from the artful composition of this scene, I don't even
need to tell you which is the uptight Cecil and which is the
self-assured George.
The pieces are set into place over the course of an initial trip to Florence, where Lucy meets George. When she returns to England, she starts to weigh her feelings for George against the pressure of marrying Cecil. What follows is the typical tap dance through social propriety and class-conscious protocols with which any reader of Jane Austen is familiar. Lucy is pulled one way and then another by various friends and family members, culminating in the rejection of one hopeful suitor in favor of the other.

Again, it's not exactly my cup of tea, but the film does a good job of telling the story. The acting is superb. In addition to the talents listed above, the film also includes Judy Dench, Maggie Smith, Denholm Eliot, and basically any English actor worth his or her salt who was alive in 1985. They all nail it.

Though I may have found the themes of class consciousness a bit dull, there is enough humor to pull through a more cynical viewer like myself. I may have found Maggie Smith's "poor cousin Charlotte" character annoying, but that's easily balanced by the more biting humor of other characters like George and his father. Even Lucy herself has grit, which is nice to see.

It's easy to recommend this to those who love this kind of movie, and in fact, I'm sure that any fan of Pride and Prejudice and its ilk has probably already seen this one several times. If you haven't, then I'm confident that you'll love it (my wife does, and she's a tremendous appreciator of such films). If you're more like me, don't be surprised if you enjoy it a little more than you expect. You can think of it as a sophisticated "date movie," if  it helps.

So, 516 films seen. Only 633 to go before I die...