A Room With A View

Studio: Criterion

Oct 02, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Masters of the cinematic literary adaptation, producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory built their own cottage film industry around bringing the classic works of novelists such as E.M. Forster and Henry James to the silver screen. Their films are famous for being lavishly shot, smartly scripted (usually by screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala), and exquisitely performed by fine actors who regularly waived their high price tags for a chance to appear in a Merchant-Ivory feature. A Room With A View is no exception to these rules, and one of the independent studio’s most successful pictures.

Adapted from the E.M. Forster novel of the same title, View stars a teenaged Helena Bonham Carter as Lucy Honeychurch, an unconventional girl from a wealthy (and conventional) English family. While vacationing in Florence with her cousin Charlotte (Downton Abbey’s Maggie Smith) she meets the handsome, freethinking George Emerson (Julian Sands, pre-Warlock) who is traveling with his equally maverick father. After a brief and highly inappropriate affair, Lucy ends her vacation early and flees back to her English countryside home before their scandal catches and spreads like wildfire. At home, it seems as if the incident is finally behind her; she’s quickly engaged to a more appropriate suitor. But, of course, the situation is turned on its head when Mr. Emerson and his attractive son move into a cottage in Lucy’s small hometown.

A Room With A View’s cast is across-the-board fantastic. Among the smaller roles you’ll find Judi Dench as a bold, eccentric novelist, and Simon Callow as a warmhearted country vicar. The highlight, though, may be Daniel Day-Lewis going full Urkel as Cecil, Lucy’s nebbish fiancé. (He plays the part of a bookish, pompous twat so far over-the-top that it loops back around into sublime territories.) The film is also absolutely gorgeous—the cinematography by Tony Pierce-Roberts captures both interiors and exteriors in beautiful lights and eye-catching angles—and the film rightly won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction for its intricately detailed indoor spaces. The movie shows off its high production value in all aspects, and the only major drawback to the film is that these reserved, quiet period pieces are often an acquired taste, and certainly not for the viewer who needs to see a lot happen over the course of two hours. 

Criterion’s release of the film comes packaged with two new documentaries—the first featuring cast members Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sands, and Simon Callow looking back on the production, and the second featuring James Ivory and members of his filmmaking team doing the same. There’s also a vintage NBC news segment about Merchant and Ivory’s history and collaborations, which serves as a nice primer on the duo. The main attraction, however, is the film’s fantastic transfer; it’s hard to imagine we’ll see as crisp and pretty-looking a Blu-ray the rest of this year. 

www.criterion.com/films/28597-a-room-with-a-view

Author rating: 6.5/10

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Lisa
September 2nd 2018
6:09am

“Make love” in Edwardian times simply meant romantic behavior; i.e., the kiss in the barley field. Lucy and George definitely did not go ‘all the way’. A simple kiss was scandal enough in 1908. The hot and heavy stuff in the trailer was post-marriage when they returned to Florence for their honeymoon.

Rogert Ebert
September 11th 2018
3:58pm

My favorite character in “A Room with a View” is George Emerson, the earnest, passionate young man whose heart beats fiercely with love for Lucy Honeychurch. She is a most respectable young woman from a good family, looking like the cottage rental rates lake george ny manager, who has been taken to Italy on the grand tour with a lady companion, Miss Bartlett. “A Room with a View” enjoys its storytelling so much that I enjoyed the very process of it. The story moved slowly, it seemed, for the same reason you try to make ice cream last: because it’s so good.