A revisit of this resplendent Merchant-Ivroy-Jhabvalacostume porn, A ROOM WITH A VIEW, has wondrously retained its entrancing lusciousness in the wake of the impeccable restoration.
Spending a belle-époque vacation in Florence, young English lady Lucy Honeychurch (Bonham Carter), hailed from an upper-middle class upbringing, is chaperoned by her elder cousin Charlotte Barlett (Smith), meets a sundry of compatriots in their pensione, among which, Mr. Emerson (Elliott) and his son George (Sands), express their willingness to exchange their rooms with the ladies’ upon Charlotte’s grievance that their rooms don’t have a view. A gesture with benevolence is met with Charlotte’s utter dismay, who is ingrained in her straitlaced head space and constantly clashes with Lucy’s more open-minded temperament falling in with the story's turn-of-the-century ethos.
The pair’s Florentine sojourn is topped off by an impulsive kiss from George with Lucy in its receiving end during a rural sally, what would have happened next (nudge nudge wink wink) is successfully pre-empted by Charlotte’s intervention, and the scandal is sworn of secrecy by both Lucy and Charlotte, but little do we know, one of them cannot keep that promise and the other would be fallen under the magic spell, of such a banal but passionate kiss.
The next chapter spirits Lucy away to her home turf, where she consents to the engagement with a pedantic gentleman Cecil Vyse (Day-Lewis), but due to a quirk of fate (or rather, itsauthor E.M. Forster’s novelistic licence), George and his father materialize themselves as the new tenants of a cottage in the same village, their settlement wrong-foots a seemingly contented Lucy, and ripples of that previous impulse (accentuated by George’s constant presence) actuates Lucy to rethink her nuptial decision and for the first time, acknowledges to her true feelings which will find her the fulfillment that breaches the entrenched class barrier.
Consequentially, A ROOM WITH A VIEW is blessed with a cracking dramatis personae, Maggie Smith, in her another terrific Oscar-nomimated showcase that significantly solidifies her priggish spinster screen persona of her later career, self-consciously warbling her way through her passive-aggressive stock-in-trade, but when subjected to the pitfall of becoming a laughingstock, she will plough on with a tenacious obliviousness that remarkably intimates how hard for a woman of her bearings to survive (apparently) unscathed under such a snooty milieu.
BAFTA favorite Denholm Elliott bags his once-in-a-lifetime Oscar nomination as the solicitous, agreeable Mr. Emerson, but by my lights, the champ among supporting actors (against a fierce competition from Elliott, Simon Callow’s exceedingly personable and responsive Reverend Mr. Beebe, the mascot of the film, and Julian Sands’ flash-in-the-pan raffish brio), is none other than Mr. Day-Lewis, stylishly out of step with the repugnant stereotype of a high-brow, conservative scion, even he is not cut out for Lucy, one certainly feels sorry for him when he accepts his defeat in a gentlemanly manner, which effectively salvages the supposedly most antipathetic character in the story and purveys Cecil a dignified, yet rather touching sheen that is not present in the book.
While Maggie Smith is unequivocally the cherrypick among the film's petticoat players, one would be too remiss to not mention Judi Dench’s novelist Eleanor Lavish, who shares most of her scenes with Smith (for stanned fans, it marks a monumental moment!), taking in her stride spirited convos that triumph the Bechdel test (but not above tittle-tattling), also Rosemary Leach has a good run as Lucy’s patrician, nonplussed mother, but it is quite a slight that a 18-year-old HelenaBonham Carter is left without much fanfare in her stunning film debut, who stoutly holds her own against any member of these more experienced thespians, only if her final liberation doesn’t lead to a faintly saccharine revisit of Florence with her beau, but a new perspective on her own life and role in a larger context, as an independent woman who doesn’t suppress her feelings and thoughts, perceives the world with an upgraded awareness, that would be a more judicious coda for today’s viewers.
In the event, A ROOM WITH A VIEW is a nonpareil British drama-comedy, souped up by scrumptious trimmings aplenty (cinematography, costume, music, production design and a collective fusillade of hallmark elocution),where Victorian formality fighting a losing battle with Edwardian enlightenment, and theMerchant-Ivroy-Jhabvala trinity’s best work!
referential films: Ivory’s REMAINS OF THE DAY (1993, 7.5/10), HOWARD’S END (1992, 8.2/10).