Portrait of a Lady
The Portrait of a Lady is a distant and chilly adaptation of the Henry
James novel that never gets off the ground.
Nicole Kidman stars a Isabel Archer, an American in Europe who,
at the film's outset, she dismisses a marriage proposal from the
wealthy Lord Warburton (Richard E. Grant), and instead expresses
a desire to tour the world. When an unexpected fortune comes her
way, the scheming Madame Merle (Barbara Hershey) introduces her
to the calculatingly seductive Gilbert Osmond (John Malkovich),
a mysterious recluse in Italy, who delights in manipulating people.
She is smitten by Osmond, and yet struggles to maintain her own
identity under the pressures of Osmond and society. Director Jane
Campion, as in The Piano, is obviously aiming to portray the struggles
of an independent young woman caught between marraige and society's
image of the ideal woman. In some parts, she succeeds. We are able
to see the progression of Isabel from being her own woman to being
constrained as a wife. However, the film is so stately and formal
that it ends up being slow and uninvolving. You never really care
about Isable, Mme. Merle, Osmond or anyone else in the cast. Technically,
Campion deserves some credit for staging parts of the film in a
unique way, setting it apart from the standard period drama. For example,
a travel montage is filmed as a surrealistic early black and white film.
But while these interludes occasionally perk up the story, they fail to
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