The Portrait of a Lady

1996

Drama / Romance

143
IMDb Rating 6.2 10 10,459

Synopsis


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August 12, 2020

Director

Cast

Christian Bale as Edward Rosier
Mary-Louise Parker as Henrietta Stackpole
Nicole Kidman as Isabel Archer
Viggo Mortensen as Caspar Goodwood
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
1.3 GB
1280*720
English 2.0
PG-13
23.976 fps
144 min
P/S N/A / N/A
2.41 GB
1920×1080
English 2.0
PG-13
23.976 fps
144 min
P/S N/A / N/A

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by hommedeplume 7 / 10 / 10

A woman is torn between independence and love in this feminist adaptation of Henry James' novel.

Many people could not warm up to this remarkable adaptation of Henry James' novel, A Portrait of a Lady. The dark, abusive themes and open ending are not part of typical costume drama fare, but both are true to Henry James' novel and to Jane Campion's vision. Henry James originally wrote the novel in the 1880s. Intended as an exploration of what a woman might do if she were given independent means, James' book indicts women as being trapped by a weaker nature. Exploring the same material Campion's movie comes to a different conclusion. The adaptation and direction are superb. The movie maintains the steady rhythm of doom that makes James' novel an enduring classic. There is no place where this is more evident in the film than in its lingering images. The camera holds on to the subject a moment longer than expected, making the viewer a little uncomfortable, and anticipating sudden disaster that never quite arrives. Ms. Campion directs this film like a horror film, which is exactly what it is. The acting in this film is also convincing, from Nicole Kidman's paralyzed Isabel, to John Malkovich as a hypnotically terrifying pursuer. They are backed by a solid cast of major actors in minor roles, all adding to Isabel's complex societal tragedy. Portrait of a Lady, particularly this film adaptation, is a remarkable example of how stories may stay the same, but their meanings change over time. Related films include: Washington Square (1997), The House of Mirth (2000), The Buccaneers (1995)(mini).

Reviewed by bbmtwist 10 / 10 / 10

Colorful travesty of the Henry James Novel

The Portrait of a Lady (1996) Jane Campion's film of Henry James' most admired novel is a hodgepodge of bits and pieces, wrong approaches, anachronisms and undeveloped narrative plot lines, which converge to make a most unsatisfactory adaptation and a completely twisted view of the heroine, Isabel Archer. Comparing the film to the impeccable BBC mini-series of 1968, the flaws and misconceptions in the film are all the more glaring. Isabel is portrayed as a timid, sexually frustrated, scared rabbit. The James Isabel is strong, vibrant, self-assured and an incredibly optimistic ray of sunshine. With this main character completely mis-represented, there is no hope for the film. Campion begins with a black and white prologue of modern women, presented in a home movie fashion, that has nothing to do with the film. She presents Isabel (Nicole Kidman) with no back story at all. We don't know that her aunt brought her to England at the death of Isabel's father as a pledge to her dead sister. We have no idea Isabel is not their daughter, rather than their niece. The strong character of the aunt, Mrs. Touchett, is not even hinted at. Shelley Winters portrays her in a handful of short scenes, and ultimately as a cipher. We see little of John Gielgud as Mr. Touchett and completely missing is the dialogue between he and Ralph as to the inheritance, an extremely important plot twist. There is a ridiculous fantasy of Isabel's, being made love to by the three suitors she is being wooed by, indicating sexual frustration. Sex doesn't even enter the heroine's mind in the novel. Her first suitor with a brief proposal scene is Lord Warburton (Richard E. Grant), who disappears until later in the film. Her American suitor, Caspar Goodwood (Viggo Mortensen) is also seen briefly in the first part of the film. Madame Merle (Barbara Hershey) suddenly appears at the Touchett house as Mr. Touchett is dying with no explanation as to who she is or why she is there (she is a friend of Mrs. Touchett). Ralph comments on her to Isabel and is critical of her, a premonition which ruins the suspense of finding this out for ourselves. Gilbert Osmond (John Malkovich) is introduced as a cad from the outset. Also his previous involvement with Madame Merle is obvious at his introduction - again ruining the suspense of the audience being taken in as Isabel is by the attentions of both. Osmond's sister, the Countess Gemini, is portrayed not as a caring woman, aware of her brother's past and protective of Isabel, but as a silly hysteric by Shelley Duvall. Merle's plotting is also evident from the get-go, not as a shocker revealed in the last chapters. Merle's interpretation that Isabel engineered her inheritance - "Clever girl!"- is not even hinted at in either the book or the BBC production. Osmond's evil stalking of Isabel is completely out of character and repugnant. No woman of the era would permit his unwelcome attentions. We are entertained by a black and white home movie montage of Isabel's travels, anachronistic as moving film had not as yet been invented. Ralph's confrontation with Isabel as to why she intends to throw away her chances in marrying Osmond does not occur in the book, not does his admitting he loves her in a non-cousinly manner. Ralph as played by Martin Donovan and looking like a dissipated Jeff Bridges is insipid and dull. Isabel as played by Kidman would have deserved him. Kidman continues to play Isabel as a bit scatter-brained and inhibited. There is no spark of why Isabel as written is an extraordinary "modern" woman. She is a deer in the head lights, weak and reactionary - this is not the character as written. Indeed none of the characters in the film have any real passion for anything. Of note is the fact that the half way mark in the film is the two thirds mark in the BBC adaptation, indicating how much important back story and detail has been omitted in the film version. One positive light is the very emotional and beautifully played scene between Isabel (when she finally comes to her senses) and Ralph on his death bed. Kidman is exceptional in this one scene only. Mortensen practically assaults Kidman in the last scene, forcing her into a corner. What choices now does she have. Her real love dead, two aggressive men (Goodwood and Osmond) nipping at her heels. Rather than decide to return to Florence and her unhappy marriage and to hopefully protect her stepdaughter from a loveless marriage, Isabel stands in a doorway undecided as to what to do. This is a metaphor for Campion's inability to adapt and direct a complex novel, choosing simplistic thinking and action over the complexities of James' character writing. The film received two Oscar noms, one for Costume Design and the other for Barbara Hershey's tortured performance as Madame Merle. Watching Rachel Gurney as Merle in the BBC production play her scenes with great cool and sophistication, one can understand how Merle has proceeded with her world of schemes under the radar of most everyone in her society. Not so with Merle as written and directed by Campion. Her Merle could not have fooled a baby about who she really is and what her intentions are. It has been said that Campion tried to make a "feminist" film. What could be more feminist in outlook than the novel itself, championing a modern woman who wants to go through life not tied to a man, but making independent choices. It's why Ralph ensures she has the funds to do so and not have to marry that make him so touching and so supportive of Isabel's intentions. Campion reduces Isabel to a rabbit caught in the trap of preying men. She entirely misses the point of the novel and its intentions. It is interesting to note that here Osmond had married a dying woman (his first wife) to obtain her fortune, something the main character of James' later THE WINGS OF THE DOVE, intends, but fails to do, having fallen in love with her. James was constantly using the plot device of men marrying women for their money and to support their clandestine affairs. They all come to naught, but in diverse and interesting ways (see also THE GOLDEN BOWL). To sum up, rather a travesty than an adaptation of a great novel.

Reviewed by amileoj 10 / 10 / 10

The Best Screen Adaptation of a Henry James Novel

Given the tenor of some of the other reviews posted here, I should start by making the extent of my disagreements clear. First, this film is unquestionably Jane Campion's best work to date, and it represents, in particular, a significant advance beyond her previous work in The Piano. Second, this film, while unapologetically feminist in point of view, in no sense attempts to shoehorn James's artistic vision into an ideological box for which it is unsuited. On the contrary, James has probably never been more sensitively interpreted on screen. Third, purely as a film, The Portrait of a Lady belongs on a short shelf among the very best movies of the 1990's, of whatever genre. Consider what Campion was up against: A literary adaptation, in the first place (itself almost a recipe for cinematic failure); a Henry James novel, in particular (a novelist who situated most of the "action" in his novels in the invisible social and psychological spaces between his characters, and whose works therefore constitute a kind of standing temptation to focus on picturesque/prestigious historical ambiance at the expense of narrative power); and a story, as James himself pointed out, centered on the seemingly quite confined topic of one very ordinary young woman's working out of her particular destiny. Out of these distinctly unpromising materials, Ms. Campion created a film in which nearly every scene adds depth and color to her story, even after repeated viewings. And her Isabelle Archer (beautifully realized by Nicole Kidman, in possibly her finest performance to date) is as fully tested and tried by life's moral and epistemological ambiguities, and as fully responsive to life's promise, on film, as Henry James's heroine is, on the printed page. One could hardly ask for more.

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