. "House of Mirth"

This house is as mirthless as it is merciless. It plods on, trying to engage the audience in a drama that doesn't exist. So, Lily Bart, (a plain Gillian Anderson) the young niece of a rich woman, has gambled away her allowance and is in debt. So, Lawrence Selden (a wooden Eric Stoltz), the one man she hopes wants to marry her and rescue her from a pauper's life, isn't interested. So, other wealthy men, like Gus Trenor (a foppish Dan Aykroyd) and Sim Rosedale (a slimy Anthony LaPaglia) are only too eager to bail her out in exchange for her body. Where have we seen all this before?

But over-familiarity with the plot line isn't the problem with this picture. The first problem is in the casting. The story begs for a leading lady for whose conquest men would cross oceans and climb mountains. Gillian Anderson is not that lady. And, all the posturing and make-believe can't convince us that she wields some sort of heart-breaking effect on the opposite sex. Without that conviction, the story and the drama simply don't take hold. We're just too confused about why they're all carrying on about her beauty to become engaged with a single character or situation. Her "plight" is pitiful but hardly sympathetic.

Then, for problem number two, there's the direction by Terence Davies (his first film in five years) who couldn't have accomplished a slower pace if he'd immersed the film in glue. The people talk slow, the action is stupefyingly lethargic, the camera is made of lead. Except, perhaps, for sumptuous period costuming, fine art directing and excellent cinematography (a waste of pro resources), this is as uncinematic as it gets.

There is so much pomposity here that it feels like a main character. On the other hand, to get a sense of the sad story of Lily Bart, turn to the novel on which it's based, written by Edith Wharton. Go to this movie only if your sleeping pills aren't working.

Rated S, for Soporific or Sophomoric.

                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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