The Portrait of a Lady

"Very Good"

The Portrait of a Lady Review


Jesus, I didn't realize when I went to the movies this morning I was going to have to think!

But seriously, that's what you're going to be doing if you see The Portrait of a Lady -- Jane Campion's follow-up to The Piano, based on Henry James's "classic" novel that you've probably never read. Now, I'm wishing that I had, though, because Portrait is a fantastic movie to watch, exquisitely crafted and painstakingly detailed, gorgeously photographed and full of style -- but it is just plain impossible to follow.

I mean impossible to follow -- I'm guessing that's why I get copies of the production notes and why you get to read reviews like this: to explain the plot. So here goes: Isabel (Nicole Kidman) is a woman in 1872 Europe who eschews the traditional life of the time (i.e. marry a rich guy) and has the world's first afro (check out the publicity stills). She's a rare free spirit in an age of repression. Turning down suitors played by Viggo Mortensen, Richard E. Grant, and Amateur's Martin Donovan, Isabel turns out to be pretty gullible, too, and gets suckered into marrying the manipulative Osmond (John Malkovich), thanks to the duplicity of Osmond's evil friend Madame Merle (a nearly unrecognizable Barbara Hershey). (Yes, it does sound very Dangerous Liaisons-ish.) Isabel soon finds her life pretty miserable, and then 124 years later they make a movie about it. That's way simplified.

You're probably saying that Portrait is probably not the best movie material out there, and I agree, but if anyone was going to have the ability to pull this off, it was Campion, and I've got to give her credit for trying. Unfortunately, unlike The Piano, Portrait is incredibly hard to get at, a dense and mostly inaccessible try at making something into art.

There's so much good about the film, though, that it's hard not to recommend -- the performances are top-notch, especially Donovan as Isabel's cousin, who really deserves notice for this production. Kidman is really coming into her own as a true talent, as well, and the remaining cast are all great. Again, beautiful art direction, cinematography, direction by Campion, and interesting editing all work to the film's advantage. The only problem I had: what's with the black & white inserts, slow-motion, askew angles, and singing beans(!?) that show up now and then? We do not need another Eraserhead.

Oh well... you should still see it, if for no other reason than it will give you plenty of conversation material for a long time. And you'll get some interesting hairstyling ideas.

[Be sure to listen for the best inside-joke line: "I would have given my little finger..."]



The Portrait of a Lady

Facts and Figures

Run time: 144 mins

In Theaters: Friday 17th January 1997

Box Office Worldwide: $3.7M

Distributed by: PolyGram Video

Production compaines: Propaganda Films, Polygram Filmed Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 43%
Fresh: 12 Rotten: 16

IMDB: 6.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Isabel Archer, as Gilbert Osmond, as Madame Serena Merle, as Henrietta Stackpole, as Edward Rosier, as Mrs. Touchett, as Lord Warburton, as Caspar Goodwood, as Mr. Touchett, as Caspar Goodwood

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.