Rated: PG-13 for one brief nude scene and sexual content Reviewed by: Chris Release date: January 17, 1997 Released by:
Director Jane Campion (The Piano) adapts Henry James' 1881 novel about an adventurous young woman, with exquisite detail.
Nicole Kidman plays American Isabel Archer, an intelligent woman full of ambition and eager to spread her wings. Spurning enviable proposals, Isabel uses her inherited wealth to travel the world. However, the need to soak up foreign culture seems to fade when she meets an intriguing man.
While visiting her ailing cousin (Martin Donovan) in England, she meets Madame Merle (Barbara Hershey in a very moving performance). She's a sad character who laments the fact that her beauty and youth are behind her.
Merle introduces Isabel to her old friend, Gilbert Osmond (John Malkovich), an art collector living in Rome with his teenage daughter. Isabel is swept off her feet by him and willingly gives up her independence to marry him. All too soon, however, she realizes that she's wed a controlling sadistic tyrant who was more interested in her fortune than her free spirit. Ironically, the money that Isabel felt would allow her freedom, ultimately caused her entrapment.
Malkovich has played the charming cad so frequently, he holds no surprises for us. In fact, his character in Dangerous Liasons is strikingly similar.
Hershey, on the other hand, shows a new dimension as a troubled, bitter woman and she's notable in the part.
Campion fills her two and a half hour film with lush settings of stone mansions, gardens and beautiful people. Kidman's porcelain beauty is showcased often, but it's a pleasure because she expresses a great deal of emotion with small, subtle movements. A quivering lip or an eye on the verge of tearing, conveys a lot.
Some might be put off by the length of The Portrait of a Lady, at times it's slow, but the interesting storyline, diverse characters and lovely look of the film more than compensate.
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