Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Acclaimed British director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea, Distant Voices, Still Lives) made his third NYFF appearance with this exquisite adaptation of Edith Wharton’s 1905 novel—a brutal survey of the New York haute bourgeoisie at the turn of the 20th century. In a revelatory performance that forever freed her from X-Files typecasting, Gillian Anderson stars as the ill-fated Lily Bart, a woman of means who watches her social status slowly crumble as she rejects marriage offers in the name of love over money and becomes a pawn in the self-preserving schemes of fair-weather friends like the calculating socialite Bertha Dorset (the excellent Laura Linney). Vividly bringing the 1890s to life on a modest budget and with a peerless cast (which also includes Dan Aykroyd, Elizabeth McGovern and Eric Stoltz as the object of Lily’s unrequited affection), Davies captures all the emotional violence of Wharton, as well as her cutting insight into a privileged class whose worst tendencies remain all too recognizable a century later.
“Gillian Anderson is a revelation; sliding inexorably from the grace money confers, she registers every nuance of Lily's spiritual refinement and social martyrdom.” —NYFF38 program note
“It is Davies's unswerving allegiance to the visual that raises The House of Mirth from tasteful literary adaptation to a full-bodied movie to set beside The Magnificent Ambersons and The Life of Oharu.” —J. Hoberman, The Village Voice
“Anderson has a face engineered for these sorts of exhausting contradictions. One curtain falls, and boldly, up rises another. Her performance is a study in the difference between hubris and pride, remarkable for how unshowy but profoundly devastating it is.” —Wesley Morris, San Francisco Chronicle
Images courtesy of GRANADA/ARTS COUNCIL/FILM 4 / THE KOBAL COLLECTION / BUITENDIJK, JAAP