Washington Square

Washington Square dir Agnieszka Holland - Based on the classic Henry James novel, Washington Square is the story of awkward young heiress Catherine Sloper (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who becomes caught in the emotional struggle between her strict and overprotective father (Albert Finney) and an improbable suitor, the charming, handsome, and penniless Morris Townsend (Ben Chaplin). When Catherine falls in love with Morris, she is forced to make a fateful choice that will affect her happiness -- and the rest of her life. What gives "Washington Square" its particularly inviting quality is that throughout the film the audience does not truly know whether the young, handsome and captivating suitor of a shy, innocent person is after her for her money or whether he truly loves her. What's more, Henry James, who wrote his novel about a family high in New York social circles, wants us to have mixed feelings about the cynical and verbally abusive father. Does he want to protect his only daughter from the pitches of fortune hunters, or is just plain ornery about a girl whose delivery resulted in the childbirth death of his wife? While Ms. Holland does furnish the flavour of New York society a century and a half ago by giving us glimpses into the parties, by carefully showing us the far-reaching and lavishly furnished home at 21 Washington Square, by offering a look at the many servants, she avoids the lush and stilted theatricality of Merchant-Ivory productions. Her calm approach provides a note of authenticity and realism to the goings-on while retaining dramatic punch through a single, showdown scene between Catherine and her suitor, Morris Townsend. Jennifer Jason Leigh does fine, broadening her range after appearing previously in terminally cynical roles such as that of Dorothy Parker. Washington Square, is a down-to-earth piece of moviemaking filled with solid performances and a mildly feminist resolution which should please many without offending audience members of a conservative bent. (USA 1997) PG, 115 min.

Pic of reels

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