×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Wings of the Dove

This handsomely produced Miramax release renders one of Henry James' lesser novels into a mostly satisfying romantic melodrama which, with its colorful settings in London and Venice soon after the turn of this century, and its passionate female characters, is likely to do decent mid-range business with a lengthy ancillary shelf life.

With:
Kate - Helena Bonham Carter Merton Densher - Linus Roache Millie - Alison Elliott Susan - Elizabeth McGovern Aunt Maud - Charlotte Rampling Lord Mark - Alex Jennings Kate's father - Michael Gambon

This handsomely produced Miramax release renders one of Henry James’ lesser novels into a mostly satisfying romantic melodrama which, with its colorful settings in London and Venice soon after the turn of this century, and its passionate female characters, is likely to do decent mid-range business with a lengthy ancillary shelf life. Set for Stateside release in November, a month after the James-based “Washington Square” from Disney, this one should perform better than the previous James adapta-tion, Jane Campion’s “The Portrait of a Lady.”

Like other works by James, “Dove” explores the clash between the 19th-century values of the aristocracy and the more “modern” 20th-century aspirations of its principal protagonists. These are mostly embodied in the character of the willful Kate, who is born to the nobility but is romantically attached to a member of the lower classes. The character gives Helena Bonham Carter one of her best opportunities in a while, one which she seizes with relish, looking vibrant and totally convincing in her pivotal role.

It’s 1910, and Kate has been living with her dissolute father (Michael Gambon), an opium addict, since her mother’s death. She’s taken in hand by her imperious, deeply conservative Aunt Maud (Charlotte Rampling), who is determined to find her niece a place in high society, probably as the wife of the arrogant Lord Mark (Alex Jennings). Kate, however, has other ideas. Though the thought of money and social position is attractive to her, she’s in love with Merton Densher (Linus Roache), an impoverished journalist. Avoiding her aunt’s watchful eye, Kate meets Merton whenever she can.

The arrival of Millie (Alison Elliott) offers the clandestine lovers new opportunities. Millie is a typical James character, a fabulously wealthy and beautiful young orphaned American who is touring Europe and who is accepted everywhere in society (as Maud remarks, she’d be Queen of America if they had one). Millie, who possesses a healthy American lack of snobbishness, befriends Kate and, when she meets Merton, is obviously attracted to him, not knowing his involvement with her new friend. Discovering that Millie is terminally ill, Kate decides, during a trip to Venice, to push Merton into the rich woman’s arms in order to make him, eventually, a widower of social standing.

Hossein Amini’s adaptation of the book seems geared as far as possible to popular taste; the characters are driven by very contemporary needs and passions, and the bitter climax is carefully prepared. Kate’s romanticism is allied to her deviousness (as Lord Mark comments, “There’s far too much going on behind those pretty eyelashes”), and Bonham Carter captures with consid-erable precision the shifting moods of the character.

Roache makes Merton rather too vacillating and feeble a character, and both his love scenes have him in an entirely submis-sive position; it’s hard to figure what makes Merton so attractive to these two stunning women.

Elliott shines as the American who enlivens the lives of these jaded Euros, while Rampling and Jennings elegantly etch the self-important aristocrats with chilling venom. Gambon has little more than a cameo as Kate’s ravaged dad, and Elizabeth McGovern hasn’t much to do as Millie’s companion.

Visually the film impresses, with Eduardo Serra’s widescreen camerawork evocatively capturing the streets and interiors of London and a rain-swept Venice. Pacing is crisp, with little time wasted on inessentials. Dialogue is often caustically witty, and the relations clearly delineated.

This is something of a comeback for British director Iain Softley, who impressed with his Beatles yarn “Backbeat” (1993) but who disappointed many with his sophomore outing, “Hackers” (1995). “The Wings of the Dove” may be typical of the school of British literary cinema, but Softley’s handling of several key elements, including an unusually frank love scene in the later stages, is always inventive. Production values are of the highest standard.

The Wings of the Dove

British

Production: A Miramax release of a Renaissance Dove production. Produced by David Parfitt, Stephen Evans. Executive producers, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Paul Feldsher. Directed by Iain Softley.

Crew: Screenplay, Hossein Amini, based on the novel by Henry James. Camera (Rank color, Arri wide-screen), Eduardo Serra; editor, Tariq Anwar; music, Gabriel Yared; production design, John Beart; art direction, Martyn John; costumes, Sandy Powell; sound (Dolby digital), Sallie Jaye; assistant director, Simon Moseley; casting, Michele Guish. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (British Renaissance), Sept. 4, 1997. (Also in Toronto Film Festival.) Running time: 101 MIN.

With: Kate - Helena Bonham Carter Merton Densher - Linus Roache Millie - Alison Elliott Susan - Elizabeth McGovern Aunt Maud - Charlotte Rampling Lord Mark - Alex Jennings Kate's father - Michael Gambon

More Film

  • Woolsey Fire Malibu

    Many Malibu Areas Still Off-Limits for Filming After Fire

    The California Film Commission has maintained its ban on filming in several Malibu areas hit by the massive Woolsey fire in Southern California last month. The commission announced Tuesday that due to continued clean-up and repair work along Pacific Coast Highway, permits for filming on the highway are not being issued at this time. PCH [...]

  • Against the Clock

    Film News Roundup: Andy Garcia's Spy Thriller 'Against the Clock' Bought by Gravitas

    In today’s film news roundup, Andy Garcia’s spy thriller is sold, “Battlestar Galactica” gets a screenwriter, and Brooklyn Decker gets an award. ACQUISITION Gravitas Ventures has acquired North American rights to spy thriller “Against the Clock,” starring Andy Garcia, Dianna Agron (“Glee”), and Justin Bartha, Variety has learned exclusively. More Reviews London Theater Review: 'The [...]

  • 'Pacific Rim Uprising' film premiere

    John Boyega in Talks to Star in Legal Drama 'A Naked Singularity'

    “Star Wars” actor John Boyega is in talks to star in the legal drama “A Naked Singularity” with Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions on board to produce. The movie is based on Sergio De La Pava’s debut novel, which centers on a successful New York public defender whose life begins to unravel after he loses [...]

  • Aquaman 2018

    'Aquaman' Outpacing 'Wonder Woman' in Fandango Pre-Sales

    Pre-sales of “Aquaman,” which opens on Thursday night, are outpacing “Wonder Woman” at the same point in the advance ticket sales cycle on online ticketer Fandango. “Wonder Woman” opened with $103 million domestically during the June 2 to June 4, 2017, weekend on its way to a $412 million North American total for Warner Bros. “Aquaman,” [...]

  • European Union Placeholder

    Europe, Hollywood Hail Landmark E.U. Territorial Licensing Agreement

    Industry organizations and major companies in Europe and Hollywood welcomed Tuesday a high-level European Union agreement that in large part preserves producers’ ability to sell movies and TV shows on an exclusive territory-by-territory basis. Territorial licensing is a financial backbone of the film and TV business in Europe. Recognition of such licensing came last Thursday in [...]

  • Box Office: 'Aquaman,' 'Mary Poppins Returns'

    Box Office: 'Aquaman' Battles 'Mary Poppins Returns' in Crowded Holiday Weekend

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and the most competitive time at the multiplexes. This weekend sees two very different heroes vying for the box office crown with “Aquaman” and “Mary Poppins Returns” both eyeing sizable debuts. “Mary Poppins Returns” is getting a head start by opening on Wednesday, though estimates show “Aquaman” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content