The House of Mirth (2000)

THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, an explosive, hyper-kinetic, ultra-violent I wish 
Edith Wharton adaptation, stars Gillian "Scully and Crossbones" Ander-
son as a cash-strapped husband hunter in turn-of-the-century New York. 
She's got the looks, is of the right age, and appears bred from rea-
sonably healthy stock.  Her *hots*, however, are for a smirking, dim-
pled-chin (chinned?) art collector (Eric Stoltz), but he's not biting 
and probably 'cause she's so shameless in her "shopping."  And so mer-
rily, merrily the Modern Bride-to-Be spins along, attempting to turn 
heads, particularly those attached to wealthy male bodies.  (Transla-
tion:  an ass-load of stately flirtations, batted eyes, and, in reac-
tion, upturned noses.)  The costumes in this one are stunning and, 
when combined with the equally eye-popping sets, result in museum-
quality indoor shots.  The dialogue, adapted from Wharton's novel by 
writer/director Terence Davies, is cracklin' good at times, too.  And 
the occasional cattiness-- between rival femme fisherwomen-- is fun to 
watch.  (Nice theme of female self-sufficiency, too!)  Too bad the 
performances are so damn stilted.  Sure, all those nine-month pregnant 
pauses are probably period-perfect, but the net effect, scene after 
scene, interaction after interaction, is a movie that appears moving 
in slow-motion.  

Admittedly, a big chunk o' problem is Anderson, who is a fascinating 
error.  She looks unsure in most scenes, her gaze oft-vacant and her 
naturally raised upper-lip lending the effect that her character has 
just whiffed something woof!.  And she moves with the mechanical fra-
gility of a glass figurine who expects to break at the very next mis-
step.  (Hell, even her *voice* sounds wrong.  Was she dubbed?)  Sure, 
*some* (controlled) fire erupts here and there.  Laura Linney's a 
bitchy stitch as "Bertha."  And Dan Aykroyd (!) gooses the first hour 
to life when his financially assisting "Gus" angrily demands compensa-
tion of a, ahem, non-monetary sort.  His is a glorious blast of fast, 
firm emotion in an otherwise cold, settled soup of "molassic" melodra-
ma.  We left at the one-fifteen mark, bored...  With Terry Kinney, An-
thony LaPaglia, Jodhi May, Elizabeth McGovern, and Eleanor Bron as a 
disapproving aunt.  Now *there* is a ready-made Star Wars villain!  
With those stringy locks and dark, hollow eyes, she'd be a perfect Em-
porer-ess!  (Rated "PG"/140 min.)

Grade: W/O

Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros