Friday, July 19, 2013

A Room With A View

A Room with A View (1985).
Find it in the catalog!

 I've been on an Italy kick lately, because I have been planning a trip there later on this year.  So while I was initially worried that this Merchant Ivory film might be a little bit on the slow and tedious side, I decided to watch it anyway for the spectacular scenery in Florence.  Luckily, A Room with a View proved to be a lively and enjoyable film.  

Set during the Edwardian era and based off an E.M. Forester novel, this 1985 film adaption follows a young British woman, Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter), as she vacations in Florence for the first time under the supervision of her much older and tightly-wound cousin Charlotte (Maggie Smith).  At their hotel in Italy, Lucy and Charlotte become close with several other English travelers including novelist Eleanor Lavish (Judi Dench), Reverend Beebe (Simon Callow), and most importantly, the free-spirited Mr. Emerson (Denholm Elliot) and his son, George (Julian Sands).  While on the trip, Lucy begins to long for more freedom and finds herself increasing drawn to George, but she is confused by her feelings.  When George passionately kisses Lucy in a field, their embrace is interrupted by a horrified Charlotte, who insists Lucy must leave Florence at once and makes Lucy promise to keep the kiss a secret (lest she be blamed).

 After returning to England, Lucy accepts the proposal of the extremely nerdy Cyril Vyse (Daniel Day-Lewis).   Cyril is a more socially suitable match for Lucy than George, but he lacks passion.  Lucy and Cyril share one of the most comically awkward kisses in cinema history, thanks in part to Cyril's pince-nez glasses.  However, her engagement gets tested when Mr. Emerson and George rent a cottage in Lucy's town.  Will Lucy choose George with his enviable bone-structure and vastly superior kisses?  Or stay true to her commitments and marry the annoyingly stuffy Cyril? 

Though the film is almost 30 years old, it still feels fresh.  The cast is superb and it was fun to see these big names actors when they were much younger.  I didn't recognize Daniel Day-Lewis at first and was totally jealous of Helena Bonham Carter's marvelously gigantic hair.  Not being a big Merchant Ivory fan, I was surprised by how much humor was in the film.  There are lots of laughs, including a famous bathing sequence featuring George, Reverend Beebe, and Lucy's brother Freddy (Rupert Graves).  The film is beautiful to look at, very romantic, and I appreciated how all of the characters were treated with empathy.   Even though Cyril's priggishness is often played for laughs, his character is not entirely dismissible and it's obvious that he does genuinely care for Lucy.   Whether you're a fan of well-acted historical dramas, want to armchair travel to Florence, or you just want an excuse to stare at Julian Sands's cheekbones for two hours, A Room With View is definitely worth watching!