Professor of French, Humbert Humbert (Jeremy Irons), an intelligent and urbane Englishman, arrives in the New England home of the welcoming widow, Charlotte Haze (Melanie Griffiths). She sees him as her dream man, dripping with European culture. But Humbert's heart and soul are taken the instant he sees 14 year old Dolores Haze, the daughter. She seems the reincarnation of the Annabel he lost when they were both 13, causing in him an emotional ice age ever since. While Charlotte courts Humbert, Humbert finds himself delicately and comically courting Dolores (Dominique Swain) - who is not altogether ignorant of the power she seems to have over him. When fate arranges to throw them together, the illicit couple embark on a journey by car that is also a trail to hell.
Review by Louise Keller:
Watching Adrian Lyne's Lolita again on DVD, I am immediately reminded why I loved the film so much the first time around. It's the mood - the absolute melancholy that Lyne achieves by this tragic love story. And there are a few surprises, like the 1995 uncut screentest by Dominique Swain.
The poignant dissonance of a forsaken musical note pierces the soul in the opening scenes of Lolita, a richly layered, expressive and exquisite cinematic work. Visually breathtaking, Adrian Lyne's unhurried storytelling is the epitome of poetic, romantic tragedy. Lolita is not about a dirty old man preying on a young, underage girl.
It's the story of a middle aged man, smitten, not only by the beauty and vibrancy of youth, but by a long lost young love from which he has never recovered. His joy is always haunted by the voice of conscience. It's also the story of a nymphette - a young, sensuous girl on the threshhold of womanhood, who is at first unaware of her sexual allure and of the provocation she emits. In her bereavement of innocence lost, she realises the power sex offers her, making full use of every asset she has, intentionally and manipulatively.
There is profound tragedy in both of these personal tales. Jeremy Irons, the thinking woman's sex symbol, is dazzling as Humbert. His gut-wrenching performance is so complex, detailed and overtly vulnerable; the folly of succumbing to temptation and mental anguish he endures throughout is effecting to the extreme. Dominique Swain is extraordinary as the young temptress - here is a mature performance, elaborate in its implications, strident by its honesty. Lyne's direction explores every angle in an almost claustrophobic way, engulfing us in every heartbeat, every breath of anticipation. The beauty of youth is captured; the vibrancy, the unpredictability, the irrationality. With its wistful undercurrent of melancholy, Lolita is an unforgettable rollercoaster ride on the highway of emotions, an insightful glimpse into a tortured soul.
In the DVD extras, Dominique Swain's 11 minute screentest is terrific. Not only do we see the uncut action by Swain and Irons, but Lyne interjects, gives direction and comments throughout. It is clear that Irons and Swain have an immediate rapport; when the scenes are finished, there are hugs all around. The featurette may only run for 8 or 9 minutes, but it captures the mood perfectly. Lyne talks about how he likes movies 'that create discussion… I love it they haven't forgotten about your movie at dinner time. It should make you argue and disagree.' Irons explains what attracted him to the role of Humbert, and that he has always been attracted to characters with enigma, that have many levels and make audiences question whether they are good or bad.
Lyne's commentary is well worth listening to - he has an easy manner and a calm voice, as he slowly and confidently talks about the film. There are nine additional scenes, including one in which Lolita is silently rehearsing her role in a play at her desk. Her legs are on the desk and she seems oblivious to the fact that her panties are clearly in view. Unseen by Lolita, Humbert gets on his hands and knees and crawls towards the desk to get a closer look. It's a most unlikely scenario and it's no wonder it was deleted.
Published January 29, 2004
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LOLITA: DVD (R)
CAST: Dominique Swain, Jeremy Irons, Melanie Griffith, Frank Langella, Suzanne Shepherd, Keith Reddin, Erin J. Dean
DIRECTOR: Adrian Lyne
SCRIPT: Stephen Schiff (based on the novel by Vladimir Nabokov)
RUNNING TIME: 137 minutes
PRESENTATION: Widescreen 16:9
SPECIAL FEATURES: Director's commentary; casting session with Jeremy Irons & Dominique Swain; deleted scenes; featurette
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: February 18, 2004