Thursday 12 June 2014

Movie Review: A Room With A View (1985)

An adaptation of the E.M. Forster novel about a young British woman falling in love with a free-spirited man, A Room With A View is a gorgeous coffee-table movie, with beautiful costumes, scenery and performances making up for a thin plot and slow pacing.

It's the early 1900s. On a trip to Florence with her chaperon and older cousin Charlotte (Maggie Smith), the young and curious Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) meets fellow British vacationer George Emerson (Julian Sands), a rather strange and passionate young man traveling with his talkative father Mr. Emerson (Denholm Elliott). Lucy and George witness a scuffle between two local men that turns into a murder, and George comes to Lucy's assistance when she faints from the excitement. They are gradually attracted to each other, and on a subsequent trip to the Italian countryside they share a spontaneous and sexy kiss, much to Charlotte's horror.

Upon returning home to the English countryside, Lucy has a suitor waiting in the stuffy form of Cecil Vyse (Daniel Day-Lewis). Lucy is content to go down the road of marrying Cecil, until fate intervenes and the Emersons move in as tenants at a nearby house in Lucy's neighbourhood, reigniting the potential for romance between Lucy and George.

One of the biggest successes for the duo of director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant, A Room With A View is a lush exercise in visually rich romance. Ivory makes almost every scene an idyllic painting to remember, with opulent colours, breathtaking views and lavish costumes. From the plazas of Florence to the fields of rural Italy and onto the English countryside, A Room With A View is as much an artistic feast for the eyes as it is a narrative for the heart.

The plot itself is slight, and unfolds at a leisurely pace. The romance between Lucy and George is based on little except coincidence and the thrill of the illicit, and there is nothing in the script by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala to explain why the feisty Lucy and the rather distracted George should actually enjoy each other's company.

More interesting are the three secondary characters. Charlotte carries a look of perpetual mild panic, unable to control Lucy and witnessing an eruption of lust. The senior Mr. Emerson always has something to say and is never shy about saying it, occupying the centre of every conversation. And Cecil Vyse is the definition of stuffiness, the antithesis of Lucy and an easy man to discard in the chase for adventurous romance.

With an undercurrent of dry humour, A Room With A View pokes fun at Victorian attitudes towards morality lingering in the early part of the 20th century. Lucy and Charlotte agree to never mention the kiss between Lucy and George, no so much to protect Lucy's character but rather Charlotte's reputation for allowing the kiss to happen. And the film outlines British haughtiness towards Italians, who are perceived by Charlotte and her fellow older aged travellers as little better than wild natives.

The performances are note perfect, Helena Bonham Carter providing a bright spark of rebellion for Lucy to play with, while Maggie Smith finds every possible expression of worry, given that Charlotte needs them all. Judi Dench makes a relatively brief appearance as English author Eleanor Lavish, touring Italy for inspiration.

A Room With A View is distinguished entertainment, making up with decorum what it lacks in excitement.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

1 comment:

  1. A classic Holiday in Florence !

    "No longer doubt! Descending from the sky,
    She lifts thee in her arms to realms on high..."


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