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Socialite Lily Bart (Gillian Anderson) lives on a small income and the generosity of her prominent friends in New York. Seeking a wealthy husband, Lily rejects the romantic overtures of her true love, lawyer Lawrence Seiden (Eric Stoltz). When she is accused of having an affair with the married Gus Trenor (Dan Aykroyd), Lily is abandoned by society and her friends.

Review by Louise Keller:
Now on DVD, The House of Mirth may find itself a larger audience than it did in cinemas. The cinematography, music, production design and costumes are gorgeous and there are some terrific lines. Like "Husbands are supposed to be like money - influential but silent." And, "A man who pays for dinner usually gets a seat at the table," with its steamy sexual innuendo.

But cinematography and witty lines alone do not a marvellous movie make and even the splendid visuals do not compensate for a sluggish script and direction. There is no question that it's an arduous, complicated journey for a novel to be adapted successfully to the screen and my favourite is Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca, which is one of the most glorious screen adaptations ever. It not only captures the nuance and flavours of its haunting story and characters, but fulfils every expectation that we may have imagined while reading the book.

While I haven't read Edith Wharton's novel The House of Mirth, I can well imagine how beautifully descriptive it might be. The subtlety of the subject matter coupled with a social glimpse into women's roles in the early 20th century is one that lends itself well to prose. The beautiful locations and rich atmosphere of the turn-of-the-century bridge brigade are indeed compelling, but emotionally the film is cold.

Gillian Anderson (almost unrecognisable to her X-Files fans) is a striking Lily, but there is much sighing and heavy breathing in her mannered performance and I always felt it was just that: a performance. Perhaps the direction is to blame. Eric Stoltz lacks the charisma that his role demands; I craved to see thesps such as Jeremy Northam and Cate Blanchett in the roles. I especially enjoyed Terry Kinney as George and Laura Linney as the two-faced Bertha, but Anthony LaPaglia suffers from poor direction. Half way through the film the script jumps so abruptly I wondered whether perhaps a reel was missing. The 140 minute length is certainly a liability - it's a big investment in time for little reward bar those for the eye.

There's an audio commentary by director Terence Davies plus a handful of deleted scenes with optional commentary.

Published June 23, 2005

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(UK/US/France, 2000)

CAST: Gillian Anderson, Dan Aykroyd, Eleanor Bron, Terry Kinney, Anthony LaPaglia, Laura Linney

DIRECTOR: Terrence Davies

SCRIPT: Terrence Davies

RUNNING TIME: 140 minutes


SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by director Terence Davies; deleted scenes with optional commentary; profiles; movie trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: May 25, 2005

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