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The 100




Wings of the Dove, The
(1997)
Reviewed by Russell Tharp
Rating: 5 Beans

ill everyone who couldn't care less about early twentieth-century class struggles in England please raise your hand? Come on, everyone. You, there in the back; you know you don't give a rat's ass. Stop trying to look smart by pretending you care. That's better.

I personally have been leery of movies based on the novels of Henry James ever since I rented "The Turn of the Screw" looking for some hot porn action and was instead faced with some lame ghost story. But that's my problem, and the therapy is helping me. "The Wings of the Dove" is your problem if you rent it. Just don't watch it while operating heavy machinery.

Helena Bonham Carter once again dresses up in corsets and big floppy hats to star as Kate Croy, daughter of a wealthy woman who married a poor man and became poor herself. Kate's mom is now dead, and her opium-addicted father has more or less sold her to her wealthy Aunt Maude (Charlotte Rampling), who wants Kate fixed up with an aristocrat. Kate has other ideas, and has been regularly shedding her knickers for working-class journalist Merton Densher (Linus Roache, surely one of the most unfortunate names in show business). Kate is unwilling to marry Merton because he's poor and marrying him will cut her off from her aunt's money.

Kate meets and befriends American rich girl Millie Theale (Alison Elliot), whom Kate soon learns is dying of some unspecified illness. Kate can't help but notice that Millie inexplicably has the hots for Merton, so she devises a plan to have Merton court Millie, thus winning Millie's love and her money--which would enable Kate and Merton to marry after Millie croaks. So they set about this plan and what results is essentially an angst-filled "Three's Company" episode, where Jack and Janet dress up like extras from "The Age of Innocence" and hate themselves for trying to get Chrissy to bequeath them her room before she dies. Except that it's less funny.

Helena John Bonzo Bonham Carter was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar™ for her portrayal of the conniving Kate--proof positive that the Academy and I will never see eye to eye. Carter appears to have attended the Judd Nelson-Andrew McCarthy School of Acting; keeping her face totally rigid and expressing every possible emotion through the subtle use of nostril-flaring. I can almost see the textbook: Anger=4mm of nostril flare, Sadness=3.5mm, Joy=3.0mm, Contempt=2.9mm, Self-Loathing=2.7mm, etc, etc. Linus VanPelt Roache Motel doesn't even bother with the nostrils; if he is expressing any emotions, it must be through some infinitesimal twitching of his ears that I was unable to catch on a 27-inch TV. Only Alison Elliot makes any attempt at acting, but she is hamstrung by a script that requires her to be on a Venice Canal leaping from gondola to gondola one minute and deathly ill on a daybed the next. Who the hell could pull that off convincingly, unless the audience was suffering from some extraordinary loss of short-term memory?

I imagine that you're supposed to leave this film filled with questions about class, and love, and how far you are willing to go to trade one for the other. I was filled with little more than a strong desire to flip around the dial looking for "Three's Company" reruns. But, like I said, the therapy is helping.






"Bad Movie Night" is a presentation of
Hit-n-Run Productions, © 1997-2006,
a subsidiary of Syphon Interactive, LLC.

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