The Golden Bowl

The Golden Bowl is a stereotypical Merchant Ivory production. The acting is meticulous, the settings and costumes are beautiful and intricate, and the movie moves slowly. This may be partially the fault of the movie itself, and partially because of its sources. The Golden Bowl is an adaptation of the Henry James novel by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (Surviving Picasso, Jefferson in Paris). Many consider this the most difficult and inaccessible James novel, which really says a lot about the source material. Also not help is the fact that the movie jumps forward in time a couple times in the beginning in order to help establish the background.

Again, class, love and marriage are at the center of the story. Charlotte Stant (Uma Thurman, Vatel, Sweet and Lowdown) and Prince Amerigo (Jeremy Northam, An Ideal Husband, Happy, Texas) love each other, but are too poor to marry each other. It is the beginning of the twentieth century, and one's station in life is extremely important. Amerigo marries Maggie Verver (Kate Beckinsale, The Last Days of Disco, Brokedown Palace), one of Charlotte's friends. Maggie does not know that Charlotte and Amerigo had a relationship, and Charlotte and Amerigo want to keep it that way. Maggie is very close to her father Adam (Nick Nolte, Simpatico, Trixie), who eventually ends up marrying Charlotte. Because of this closeness, Adam and Maggie spend a lot of time together. Initially, Charlotte and Amerigo resist each other, but they slowly yield to temptation.

Slowly is the key word for director James Ivory (Surviving Picasso, A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries). Maggie and Adam are oblivious to the affair for an awfully long time, and why they are is not quite clear. They are the only Americans, so there is a possibility of a feeling of loneliness. They grew closer after the death of Maggie's mother. But nothing in The Golden Bowl says anything about stupidity. People begin to talk, and nobody seems to listen. The Golden Bowl in question is a piece that Charlotte wants to buy for Amerigo and Maggie's wedding. The imagery around the bowl is heavy, especially so near the end. This perfect, flawless present represents the relationship between each couple. Not very subtle, and a little too obvious near the end. This is a nice spotlight for Beckinsale, who will have a high profile in less than a month with the release of Pearl Harbor. Here, she is establishing the fact that she can act. On to selling out!

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
2 hours, 10 minutes, Rated R for a sex scene.

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