Monday, June 17, 2013

A Room With A View (1985)

"To experience the true Italy, one must be a little daring! 
Eschew the Baedeker, dismiss the Cicerone, and venture out alone..."
— Miss Lavish in A Room With A View
As it is considered a classic story I've always been interested in E.M. Forster's A Room With A View. Since I enjoyed watching the 2007 version on Masterpiece Theatre when it came out I decided to watch the 1985 James Ivory directed film which I knew starred a ton of my favorite period drama actors. Reading up on the film beforehand I knew there was at least one completely objectionable scene that I would be skipping. Armed with this knowledge I watched A Room With A View (1985) on Netflix and really enjoyed it!

 Story: Florence, Italy, 1912. Lucy Honeychurch is eager for adventure, but finds herself in a safe haven of English tourists, spinsters and clergymen. Add to this the huge disappointment of rooms without views contrary to what they were promised.  When fellow guests, the socialist Mr. Emerson and his railway worker son George, step into remedy the situation sparks fly between Lucy and George, but Lucy does her best to ignore them. After an astute observer purposefully mistranslates her request for the good men (clergymen) and sends her into the arms of "a good man," Lucy receives a passionate kiss from George in the middle of a field of poppies. Meeting the Emersons could change Lucy's life forever but, once back in England, how will her experiences in Italy effect her marriage plans to the most suitable Cecil Vyse?

Scenery: Filmed on location in Italy, London and Kent, England this film has some gorgeous cinematography! Every shot is such a picturesque scene! There's the city of Florence with various historical sites and there's scenes shot in the amazing Tuscan countryside peppered with poppies! Then the last half of the film is shot in the English countryside at a Foxwold House and St. Mary's Church in Chiddingstone, Kent, England.

Music: Opens with a lovely classical theme and the music throughout is just lovely. There also some lovely Italian songs like "O mio babbino caro" that set a wistful mood. Lucy also plays the piano and her brother Freddy does once as well. Part of the plot rests upon Mr. Beebe's thoughts that “If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays, it will be very exciting--both for us and for her.”

Costumes: Designed by Jenny Beaven the Edwardian fashions are truly scrumptious! The hats, boots, parasols, gloves, blouses, skirts and dresses are so lovely. Lucy Honeychurch's styles are particularly sweet and pretty and her puffy hairstyles are actually very nice (if untidy at times). The gentlemen are always very smart in their dandy outfits with colorful ties and vests to make their outfits unique. Overall the costumes are some of the best I've ever seen for the time period they are portraying.

Objectionable Content: There is a murder at the beginning of the film which isn't gory but can be a bit disturbing if you're not prepared for it. There are a couple longer kissing scenes and one awkward (and hilarious really) kissing scene but they aren't too bad. There is also a more intimate kissing scene between married characters at the very end of the film that could have been cleaned up a lot to make the ending nicer. But the HUGE HORRID scene is rather in the middle of the film and features three men swimming/bathing in the buff. Cecil and Lucy are out for a walk when they encounter the three men and thankfully Lucy's reaction is to use her parasol to shade her eyes. I was so glad I had read about this scene beforehand and was able to skip it entirely. It is really very unnecessary and is a big stain on an otherwise lovely film. Maybe ClearPlay or some other family friendly program might edit that scene out for viewers, but I'm not sure.

Characters & Actors:
  • Helena Bonham-Carter as Lucy Honeychurch - Lucy is the heroine of the story, a rather quiet and thoughtful young lady with a bit of an artistic temperament. After growing up in an English country village she is ready for adventure in Italy. Helena Bonham-Carter is not my favorite actress but her talents here are at such a young age and she is so talented and pretty. It's easy to like Lucy and cheer for her to find perfect happiness that she deserves.
  • Maggie Smith as Charlotte Bartlett - Lucy's chaperon who is a bit like Mrs. Norris in Mansfield Park. She is very particular about how things are done and keeping to propriety and watching how things might look to others. She also has a tendency to make others feel bad for her to get what she wants. Maggie Smith was so young in this role! She plays it perfectly and you hate but feel sorry for Charlotte at the same time. 
  • Denholm Elliott as Mr. Emerson - He's a straightforward kind of person with no nonsense about him. He is a bit odd at times and has a lot to say but his heart is always in the right place. He wants his son to have a purpose in life and tries to direct him on the right path. Mr. Emerson turned out to be one of my favorite characters in this film and I prefer Mr. Elliott's portrayal to Timothy Spall in the newer adaptation.
  • Julian Sands as George Emerson - He's quiet and rather listless at first not finding much to interest him in life. He has a very kind heart though and cares deeply about the things in life that really matter. When he meets Lucy he immediately likes her and you can tell his love for her is genuine because he starts taking an interest in life and becoming all that he could be. He helps Lucy out of a few scrapes and is always gentlemanly. I've seen Julian Sands portray more villains so it was difficult for me to like him at first but he does a great job with the character, especially portraying the feelings of George without using many words.
  • Simon Callow as Reverend Mr. Beebe - The new vicar of Lucy's home town who she and Charlotte meet by chance in Italy. I'm not a huge fan of actor Simon Callow and I generally dislike the characters he plays but the insightful Mr. Beebe is a very necessary character because he often interprets the silences and helps Lucy understand herself. Again it was neat to see an older actor being so young with dark hair!
  • Judi Dench as Eleanor Lavish - A free thinking romance writer who Lucy and Charlotte meet and befriend in Italy. She is adventurous and clever though essentially a silly tourist. It was neat to see Judi Dench so young and pretty looking and in a stalwart character unlike some of the sillier characters I've seen her portray. It was also great to see her acting with Maggie Smith as the two have been great friends for years since!
  • Rosemary Leach as Mrs. Honeychurch - Lucy's mother who features much in the latter part of the movie when Lucy is back at home. She is very kind and wants the best for her children although she doesn't always know how to help them. As a widow she also longs to have Lucy settled and provided for. She has some lovely hairstyles and dresses and is overall a very nice character.
  • Rupert Graves as Freddy Honeychurch - Lucy's younger brother who is quite annoying at times! I'm not a huge fan of Rupert Graves but it was fun to see him so young and playing a fun character. Freddy is a troublemaker sometimes but often moves the story along by telling others things they should know but that Lucy won't tell them. He wears some brightly colored hats and jackets.
  • Daniel Day-Lewis as Cecil Vyse - Lucy's fiance who is very proper but very stuck up. I disliked him from the first and am not quite sure how Lucy could put up with such a ridiculous fellow. He got better as time went on but he's just so comical and horrid at the same time that it's hard to know whether to laugh or hate him! Kudos to Daniel Day-Lewis for portraying such a difficult character! 

My Thoughts: It's an odd story and the characters are so proper and concerned with seemingly trivial things but there is a great deal of heart too that comes from the Emersons. This 1985 version is quite grand and romantic in it's feel which I don't usually like but I got into the feeling of the story more this time than I did when I watched the 2007 film for the first time. I'm anxious now to re-watch that newer version because I know there's no huge inappropriate scene in it and I do like many of the actors in it.
The actors in A Room With A View (1985) were absolutely brilliant, the costumes were gorgeous, the scenery was stunning and the music was lovely. This is a beautiful film and the story is intriguing and has it's sweet moments. I might watch it again in a year or so but it's not one of those films you can just watch over and over again.

My Recommendations: I can only recommend this film to adult viewers who don't mind skipping over the two objectionable scenes. It is a beautiful film but if you're interested in the story I'd either watch it with ClearPlay or watch the 2007 version.

Have you seen A Room With A View (1985)? How about the 2007 version?
Any thoughts about the costumes featured in these photos?


Emma Jane said...

Hmmm, I haven't seen this one yet, but I'd like to. Thanks for the warnings! It has quite a few of my favourite actresses in it and I usually like those old James Ivory films. :) And of course Judi Dench and Maggie Smith are always so adorable together! Have you ever seen Ladies in Lavender? I just watched it for the first time recently. It's an odd little story, but it's actually rather charming and they were both delightful as always. :)
I'm not a huge fan of Helena Bonham-Carter either, but I do like some of her younger roles- I thought she was very good in Howard's End, even though the movie itself was kind of torturous (it was one of those movies that isn't really that great, but it has such a fabulous cast that the actors almost make it good.) Her hair was somewhat fly-away in that one too, but I thought it was very pretty. :P
I enjoyed this review! Thanks! :)

~Emma Jane

Hamlette said...

I saw this version years ago, and liked it okay. I then read the book for the first time earlier this year, and absolutely loved it! It's now one of my most favorite books. Just wonderful. I do want to see this again, and find the 2007 version too, though I'm curious as to how they removed the bathing scene in the 2007 since it's so intrinsic to the plot.

Ivy said...

I saw the 1985 version years ago. I really enjoyed the costumes and scenery, but it's not a film a wish to see again any time soon. I think they could have done a better job on the story. I may wait to see the latest version.

IMHO if you can't make a movie without profanity, violence, and questionable scenes then it's just not worth watching. It's like the difference between comedians...Bill Cosby can be funny and "clean"...that's talent. :)

Ok..ok..I'm off my soapbox.

Wishing you a wonderful, charming week.

ClaireSM said...

This is rather a daft review, centrally because of your objections to A Room With A View's famous bathing scene (and, more perplexingly, the closing kiss between a newly-wed couple on their honeymoon!)

I saw ARWAV when it was first released in 1986. It is only a PG-certificate film in the UK, and back in the 1980s the bathing scene was regarded as so amusing, refreshing (one critic called it ‘one of the great things in modern cinema’) - and innocuous - that clips of it were screened on TV awards ceremonies as ARWAV was lauded with countless awards (including Oscars).

In view of this, it is depressing to read your reaction that the scene is ‘really very unnecessary’, ‘a big stain’, ‘objectionable’ and ‘HUGE HORRID’. This response suggests that you are almost entirely missing the themes and concerns of E M Forster’s (not ”Forester”’s!) classic novel, which on the whole the makers of this wonderful film understood very well. You might not approve of Forster’s themes and worldview, but it is not reasonable to expect them to be altered to suit your own prissy, conservative ideology and more superficial viewing requirements.

Ironically, Ivory's film was attacked by critics for many years for doing exactly what you seem to be asking of it – so, on the bright side, at least your review confirms that these critics were wrong!

The Reader said...

I have just read and watched A Room with a View. I have only seen the older one though. I loved the costume but thought that the book was better. I wasn't expecting the horrible scene as when I read the book I thought they were wearing their long johns or something, so I was aghast at the scene that showed up and reached for the remote. Very disappointing. Great review. Have you read the book?

Hayden said...

Luckily, we watched this movie with my aunt, who knew when to skip :) I've seen it twice, and it's not my favorite, but it does have several enjoyable scenes.

Scullery Maid said...

I watched it recently on youtube. I read the book first, so I knew exactly where to skip, which was nice. I have to admit, though, the bathing scene is pretty hilarious in the book;-D
Great review!

Collar City Brownstone said...

I saw this movie some time last year on Netflix. It was interesting. I did not expect to see frontal male nudity so that was a shocker for me.

AJ said...

I haven't seen this movie, but if I come across it I may watch it.
Thank you for your review and warnings. I appreciate your film reviews as I believe we are on the same page with our likes and dislikes as well as wanting to guard ourselves from inappropriate things.

Jessica said...

So, does the 2007 version have any objectionable scenes? If not, I would be interested in watching it. :-)It's hard to find a good period drama I haven't seen yet. ha

birdienl said...

I haven't watched A Room With A View as I scared myself of E.M. Forsters works when I tried to read Howards End maybe 10 years ago (I think I was really too young then to appreciate such novels, but I'm not sure, I haven't tried since). But I hear a lot of good things about ARWAV, so I do hope to watch it someday.

Juanita's Journal said...

I have been a major fan of this movie ever since I saw it in the 1980s.

While viewing it recently, I watched an early scene featuring Helena Bonham-Carter and Maggie Smith . . . and the first thought that came to my mind was Oh wow! Bellatrix Lestrange and Minerva McGonagall in a scene together!".

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with commenter ClaireSM regarding the lake scene. I am conservative when it comes to my own choice of clothes and behaviour but in this case I just find the scene really funny as well as innocent and it was just the way things are, or rather were. In fact the very first time I saw it (I was alone) I had a hard time keeping it together. And with Helena bursting out laughing upon seeing the trio makes everything even funnier! I don't know, maybe it's just me.

The Rush Blog said...

You regard nudity as "horrid" and "a great stain"? Jeez.

Anonymous said...

Lucy Honeychurch !

The gentle breeze from her bright face
moves with the sound of wise words
making a sweet harmony where it blows,
as if a gentle spirit from Paradise
seems always to comfort me, in that air,
so that my heart won't let me breathe elsewhere…

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