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Impoverished Italian nobleman Prince Amerigo (Jeremy Northam) loves Charlotte Stant (Uma Thurman). To improve his social and economic fortunes he marries Charlotte's friend Maggie Verver (Kate Beckinsale), the daughter of American millionaire Adam Verver (Nick Nolte). When the widowed Verver marries Charlotte, her passion with Amerigo is re-ignited and an illicit affair begins.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
The Golden Bowl is the kind of film James Ivory can direct in his sleep and still turn out well. Based on a Henry James novel set in Italy and England and concerned with tortured love, illicit passion and cracks beneath ruling class respectability, this is classic Ivory territory. His impeccably crafted period pieces might be blending into an amorphous mass from a distant vantage point but you can still feel the quality and the width on closer inspection. This love quadrangle unfolds in well appointed decors and is performed with precision by a classy cast. Nick Nolte, ageing impressively into patriarch roles, gives a dignified air to a man of fortune and vision and Jeremy Northam proves he's the silver screen's number one cad with his almost (but not quite) hammy turn as the Italian lover of beautiful things. But it's the women who impress most; Uma Thrman's brittle beauty a valuable asset in essaying the scheming Charlotte and Kate Beckinsale all things good
as the dutiful daughter and loving wife. Add James Fox and Anjelica Huston as a couple of randy aristocrats embroiled in the deception and you have an attractive package. The Golden Bowl may not be electrifying cinema and is perhaps a little too measured at times but its exploration of life in an era when women had little control over their destinies and whispers were social currency provides absorbing adult entertainment.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It’s dragged its feet getting here (over 18 months since completion), and no wonder; Henry James’ novel and Merchant Ivory’s film doesn’t add up to irresistible viewing, despite a cast to fantasise about. Proof – if needed – that a great cast is only as great as the script (and director) allow. And even a great writer cannot guarantee great results, so it’s back to showbiz being totally unpredictable. Anyway, the movie is okay but far from gripping. Tedious, even, at times, patchy at best. The good things include Jeremy Northam’s Italian accent, but who on earth suggested him as an Italian Prince? Kate Beckinsale is terrific as the wife Northam’s Prince marries in a move to get close to some wealth. Nick Nolte, Anjelica Huston and Uma Thurman are all okay – but the script is so repetitive and laboured we lose interest half way through. There is much to please the eye, as is Merchant Ivory’s trademark and wont, and there is a sense of underlying intrigue about the adulterous affair that feeds our titillation, but the period is too far removed for us to be heavily involved in the social implications. It strives for relevance and engagement via character, but the characters get tedious and the social milieu fails to engage.

Review by Louise Keller:
Visually splendid, Merchant Ivory's latest offering is a welcome retreat of subtlety and understatement in a world far removed from today's frenetic pace. I haven't read Henry James' novel, but after seeing the film, I am eager to envelop myself in the prose from this elegant world where moral code is everything. Exquisite settings, production design, beautiful costumes and a rich score envelop us in the textured world of Golden Bowl, an intelligent period piece about propriety, adultery, loyalty and etiquette. The characters are a beguiling foursome inexplicably intertwined by love, loneliness, duty and wealth, and the complex layers gradually unfold and are exposed. The unravelling of the emotional issues is leisurely, and to be savoured. The women are the strong characters: they are the ones who control the events. Uma Thurman revels in her role as the huntress, always pursuing the man of her dreams, irrespective of the consequences. A vision in green sequins with a headdress decked with peacock feathers, she looks fabulous with her mane of blonde hair swept up every which way. Kate Beckinsale is lovely as the selflesss wife, while Angelica Huston adds spice as Fanny, the matchmaker. Good pairing of Huston and James Fox: what a great couple they make, with Fox as wiley as his animal namesake. Nick Nolte is truly superb while Jeremy Northam's weak Italian Prince (a very different role for Northam) is played to perfection. The crux of the story is about the relationships: father/daughter, husband/wife, husband/love, best friends. Often shot in the shadows, this is a story filled with secrets, and we become privy to all of them. The more we learn, the deeper we become embroiled. The locations are gorgeous – from the decadent castles and plush décor to the beautiful Italian landscape. I really enjoyed the emotional intensity of The Golden Bowl. Truly haunting, the film and its characters has stayed with me, as a beautiful painting that instigates its own interpretation.

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CAST: Kate Beckinsale, James Fox, Anjelica Huston, Nick Nolte, Jeremy Northam, Uma Thurman

PRODUCERS: Ismail Merchant

DIRECTOR: James Ivory

SCRIPT: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (Henry James novel)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tony Pierce-Roberts

EDITOR: John David Allen

MUSIC: Richard Robbins


RUNNING TIME: 130 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: June 19, 2002

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