Urban Cinefile
"I'm given enormous responsibility so I'm there to deliver. I keep my ego to be creative but I keep my humility to serve someone else and still take risks"  -Screen composer Lisa Gerrard
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Friday May 22, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Socialite Lily Bart (Gillian Anderson) lives on a small income and the generosity of her prominent friends in New York. Seeking a wealthy husband, Lily rejects the romantic overtures of her true love, lawyer Lawrence Seiden (Eric Stoltz). When she is accused of having an affair with the married Gus Trenor (Dan Aykroyd), Lily is abandoned by society and her friends.

"A tad overlong and with a few questionable casting decisions, this adaptation of Edith Wharton's novel is a quality period piece without being an inspired one. What it does offer as a centrepiece is a superb performance by Gillian Anderson who surely deserved an Oscar nomination at least for her portrayal of heroine Lily Bart. She's simply stunning as the woman whose looks and wit win her favouritism among the social elite in turn of the century New York and whose will and honour result in her ostracism from that society. Wharton's heroine is one of the great figures of romantic tragedy and Anderson does her brilliant justice. Less successful is the choice of some key supporting players, notably Eric Stoltz and Dan Aykroyd. Stoltz is an actor whose earnestness threatens to render him a rather dull screen presence and it happens here. He also doesn't "look" period. Some actors fit snugly into waistcoats, starched collars and top hats but Stoltz and Aykroyd simply don't and they fail to convince here in pivotal roles. Luckily there is compensation in the wonderful dialogue they and the rest of the cast are given by Wharton and Terrence Davies who has treated the original work with admirable respect. It's a delight listening to lines like "It is much safer to be fond of dangerous people" as this dissection of behavioural codes in the perfectly dreadful upper echelons of New York's elite a century ago unfolds. It's not as lavishly or meticulously mounted as Martin Scorcese's adaptation of Wharton's similarly-themed, The Age Of Innocence, but the end result is still satisfying thanks to the spellbinding presence of Anderson who makes Lily Bart a woman of substance and a heroine to remember.”
Richard Kuipers

“The cinematography, music, production design and costumes are gorgeous in The House of Mirth, and there are some terrific lines. Lines like "Husbands are supposed to be like money – influential but silent." And, "A man who pays for dinner usually gets a seat at the table," with its steamy sexual innuendo. But cinematography and witty lines alone do not a marvellous movie make and even the splendid visuals do not compensate for a sluggish script and direction. There is no question that it’s an arduous, complicated journey for a novel to be adapted successfully to the screen and my favourite is Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca, which is one of the most glorious screen adaptations ever. It not only captures the nuance and flavours of its haunting story and characters, but fulfills every expectation that we may have imagined while reading the book. While I haven't read Edith Wharton's novel The House of Mirth, I can well imagine how beautifully descriptive it might be. The subtlety of the subject matter coupled by a social glimpse of women's roles in the early 20th century is one that lends itself well to prose. The beautiful locations and rich atmosphere of the turn-of-the-century bridge brigade are indeed compelling, but emotionally the film is without heart. Gillian Armstrong (almost unrecognisable to her X-files fans) is a striking Lily, but there is much sighing and heavy breathing in her mannered performance and I always felt it was just that: a performance. Perhaps the direction is to blame. Eric Stoltz lacks the charisma that his role demands; I craved to see thesps such as Jeremy Northam and Cate Blanchett in the roles. I especially enjoyed Terry Kinney as George and Laura Linney as the two-faced Bertha, but Anthony LaPaglia suffers from poor direction. Half way through the film the script jumps so abruptly I wondered whether perhaps a reel was missing. The 140 minute length is certainly a liability – it’s a big investment in time for little reward bar those on the eye.”
Louise Keller

“Nominated for Best Film in Britain’s BAFTA Awards and Gillian Anderson voted Best Actress at the British Independent Awards. . . just goes to show how one man’s meaty movie is another man’s paltry fare. Or were there so few contenders in Britain – but that’s mean. The cruellest thing, though, is that The House of Mirth brings together such an array of talent and then wastes it. The tone, pace and structure of the film makes its already dated social context seem incongruously irrelevant; nothing catches us with insight or echo of something we might connect with. I suspect some of it has to do with the fact that director Terrence Davies has been in love with the book for 15 years, giving him an apostle’s role, not a story teller’s. It ends up repetitive and a little dull. Looks good, though.”
Andrew L. Urban

Email this article

Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 0


(UK / US / France)

CAST: Gillian Anderson, Dan Aykroyd, Eleanor Bron, Terry Kinney, Anthony LaPaglia, Laura Linney

PRODUCERS: Olivia Stewart

DIRECTOR: Terrence Davies

SCRIPT: Terrence Davies


EDITOR: Michael Parker

MUSIC: Adrain Johnston


RUNNING TIME: 140 minutes



VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar Home Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: January 16, 2002

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020