What I'm Watching: A Room With A View (1986)
E.M. Forster's 1908 novel, A ROOM WITH A VIEW, is adapted for the screen by director James Ivory in this beautifully lighthearted tale of Edwardian manners. Helena Bonham Carter stars as a young Englishwoman, Lucy Honeychurch. When Lucy and her spinster chaperone, Charlotte Bartlett (Maggie Smith), travel to Florence, they meet an unconventional Englishman, Mr. Emerson (Denholm Elliott), and his romantically unhappy son, George (Julian Sands).
After George makes the grievous mistake of kissing Lucy during a picnic in the Florentine hills, Charlotte rushes her back to England. Safely home, Lucy becomes engaged to the stiff, very proper Cecil (Daniel Day-Lewis), but after finding out the Emersons have moved close by, Lucy has a hard time ignoring her attraction to the unsuitable George.
Producer Ismail Merchant considered A ROOM WITH A VIEW Merchant Ivory's first genuine blockbuster, and it enjoyed more popular success than any previous Merchant Ivory film. Screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala was awarded an Academy Award for her screenplay, and the film itself was nominated for Best Picture. Director James Ivory's tale also features British movie icons Judi Dench and Simon Callow. A ROOM WITH A VIEW was the first of three Forster novels (the other two were MAURICE and HOWARDS END) adapted by Merchant Ivory Productions.
Helena Bonham-Carter is exquisite as the passionate yet buttoned-up Lucy Honeychurch. It is evident she is as taken with George as he is with her, but her spinsterly chaperone does not approve, so she ignores her feelings and upon returning back to England, immediately .
But try as she might to fit in to her new role as an engaged woman, it's becoming increasingly difficult to stifle the emotion and vitality George Emerson, played brilliantly by Julian Sands, has awakened in her. When he comes to visit his father in England, and they meet up once again, Lucy is beside herself, yet stubbornly holds on to her proper ideals. It is quite a sight to see her fighting her own feelings for him. And Cecil, though everything she imagines an Englishman should be, continues to irritate her with his judgmental and rude behavior. It isn't until a few well-meaning people intervene that Lucy is finally able to make a choice and follow her heart....My thoughts:
I simply adore this movie. I saw it a long time ago, and remember being captivated by it's lushness, by the tense emotion, the constraints of polite society. Even today, we still experience the disapproval and condemnation of our peers and families over the lifestyle we choose to live.
This film is just ripe with sensuality, even stifled as it is, and you can breathe it in like a heavy fragrant cloud of air. It's charming and the acting is spot on. Daniel Day Lewis especially seems to really relish his role as a pompous, judgmental windbag, and watching it again made me smirk at his delightully horrid behavior. I can't imagine what Lucy Honeychurch saw in him to accept his proposal to begin with, but it provided the much-needed excuse for Lucy to keep her distance from the man she really longs for.
Watching it again, years later, I was able to find details I missed when I was a soft-headed teenager. The intelligence, the dry humor, the inneuendos. I now feel I must own this film. And the remake, done by Masterpiece in 2007, cannot even come close to touching this one. Such a disappointment that one was. The is the true, the original, the best.
What's a favorite period piece of yours?