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The house of mirth

Threat advisory: Guarded - General risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

When a woman has the beauty men admire and women envy... it is wise to tread carefully.

Lily Bart (Gillian Anderson) is a ravishing socialite at the height of her success who quickly discovers the precariousness of her position when her beauty and charm start attracting unwelcome interest and jealousy. Torn between her heart and her head, Lily always seems to do the right thing at the wrong time. She seeks a wealthy husband and in trying to conform to social expectations, she misses her chance for real love with Lawrence Selden (Eric Stoltz). Her quest for a husband comes to a scandalous end when she is falsely accused of having an affair with a married man and is rejected by society and her friends.

Also starring Dan Aykroyd as Gus Trenor, Eleanor Bron as Mrs Peniston, Terry Kinney as George Dorset, Anthony Lapaglia as sim Rosedale, Laura Linney as Bertha Dorset, Elizabeth McGovern as Carry Fisher, Jodhi May as Grace Stepney, Penny Downie as Judy Trenor, Earce Quigley as Percy Gryce, Helen Coker as Evie van Osburgh, Mary Macleod as Mrs Haffen, Paul Venables as Jack Stepney and Serena Gordon as Gwen Stepney. Written by Terence Davies from the novel by Edith Wharton, directed by Terence Davies.

Cinematic intelligence sources

  • Awards and film festivals:
    • British Independent Film Awards: Won: best actress (Gillian Anderson) - nominations: best director, best British film
    • Golden Satellite Awards: Won: best art direction - nominations: best actress (Gillian Anderson), best costume design, best adapted screenplay
    • British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA): Nominated: Best British film, best costume design
  • Studios and distributors:

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

The house of murk.

This film is a long, slow, art-house decline from the stars to the gutter. There are frocks for days, elegant Victorian houses, elegant upper class graces, knives in the back and, most of all, Society. In other words, people who are too rich for their own good with too much time on their hands because they have no useful employment, playing little games of intrigue and seduction.

Think the House of Windsor.

The problem with The house of mirth is that it takes so long for Lily to fall that you've fallen asleep before she hits rock bottom. One hundred and forty minutes (yep, count 'em: one hundred and forty) is too long for this story to be told on film and not long enough to be told on television. It could be a three to four part mini-series on the ABC - with a little more sex and scandal - but in no way is it suited for a single viewing.

Gillian Anderson passes the first half of the film in a bland haze, coming to life only in the last quarter when there is actually something for her to do. Likewise, Eric Stoltz, who is almost in a cameo role, muddles along with some kind of upper class denial of the emotions. At least that's what I think he's doing. Maybe he just had a little too much laudanum. The actors who make their screen time count are Dan Aykroyd as the dastardly bastard, Eleanor Bron as the spidery spinster and Laura Linney as the conniving bitch Bertha. Other than that, well, I think that you know my opinion of The house of mirth by now.

PS: The house of mirth isn't a comedy.

Security censorship classification

PG (Adult themes)

Surveillance time

140 minutes (2:20 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 16 January 2002
DVD rental: 25 May 2005
VHS rental: 25 May 2005

Cinema surveillance images

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