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Movie Review: The Golden Bowl

Story: Based on the last of Henry James' novels, produced and directed by the talented Merchant/Ivory team and scripted by long time collaborator Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, we have a turn of the Century (the last one, not this one) period piece set in England and Italy. It is 1903, and America's first coal billionaire, widower Adam Verver, spends much of his time in Europe collecting art for his dream museum to be built back in America in the city that slaved to make him a billionaire. His only daughter, marries an impoverished Count and Adam marries his daughters' best friend, who is in love with the Count. If this were set in a more contemporary time it would surely have been an R rated film with incest, adultery and violence. But this is Merchant and Ivory so instead we have grace, decorum, beauty, unstated impulses and innuendoes not action. If you love lavish period pieces, long liquid scenes filled with silent glances, Nick Nolte (I had to throw that in again) and wish to escape to another time and place this film is for you.

Acting: Nick Nolte is a great actor. He is one of the breed that can physically change his appearance to fit the role. This time he is trim, understated and elegant. He was a perfect art collecting billionaire in these LOBO glazed eyes. Jeremy Northam (The Winslow Boy, An Ideal Husband) does more than an adequate job as an Italian Count (more on this in Nitpicking). Kate Beckinsale (Cold Comfort Farm) was quite good as the daughter and I think we will be seeing a lot of her in years to come. And then there is Uma Thurman - OY! Someone should pass the message along to the casting agents of the world that Uma cannot act. She is interesting looking but that is not enough to make it up on the big screen. And when she is cast in a role against real actors, she is even worse.

Critters: Horses

Food: I saw this film several days ago and cannot remember anyone eating.

Visual Art: Art, art everywhere. Paintings, drawings, frescos, sculpture and more. It was a visual delight.

Blatant Product Placement: None

Soundtrack: Don't remember.

Opening Titles: I apologize for not remembering a lot of the categories. I usually write the review within 24 hours of seeing the film but for some reason I did not get around to writing this one and have already forgotten a lot of the details. Sorry!

Theater Audience: It was an early show on a beautiful spring day but there was still the usual Merchant - Ivory crowd waiting patiently to get into the theater. Most recent movie pal Mark, was returning to San Francisco and this was our good-bye movie. He is a big Merchant - Ivory fan as well.

Squirm Scale: 0 (although the implied closeness of Verver and his daughter could rate a bit of a squirm).

Predictability Level: Medium

Oscar Worthy: Set decoration

Nit Picking: I am usually annoyed (but not always) when a character is cast who is not from that country of origin. The Count was supposed to be Italian. There are many Italian actors who could have played this role but they chose Jeremy Northam, a very English-man to play an Italian.

Big Screen or Rental: Big Screen. If you are in the mood for a Merchant -Ivory month of rentals try some of the following: Jefferson in Paris (with Nolte), Surviving Picasso, Remains of the Day, Howards End, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, Room with a View and The Bostonians. And for great fun and enjoyment rent Cold Comfort Farm.

Length: 10 minutes over the 2 hour LOBO rule.