[Screen It]


(1997) (Helena Bonham Carter, Linus Roache) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
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Tense Scenes
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Minor None Minor None Minor
Smoking Tense Family
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Drama: A woman convinces her boyfriend to romance a wealthy, but dying woman in hopes that she'll leave him her fortune upon her death.
Kate Croy (HELENA BONHAM CARTER) is a young middle class woman in 1910 London who, after her mother's death, has recently been taken in by her wealthy Aunt Maud (CHARLOTTE RAMPLING). Maud has great plans for Kate, but doesn't approve of her poor journalist boyfriend, Merton Densher (LINUS ROACHE). Instead, she intends for Kate to marry Lord Mark (ALEX JENNINGS), a rich upperclass bachelor, and threatens to disinherit Kate and stop supporting her father should her romance with Merton continue.

Kate unknowingly finds a solution in the form of Millie Theale (ALISON ELLIOT), a wealthy but terminally ill American who's in Europe for health reasons. She and Kate instantly become best friends and Kate, noting that Millie has no living relatives, concocts a plan she hopes will solve her problem. Inviting Merton to join them in Venice, she wants him to romance Millie, have her fall in love with him, and then leave him her generous estate upon her death. Merton reluctantly goes along with her plan, but then falls for Millie himself. As Kate watches her plan slowly unravel, she does what she can to save her relationship despite the consequences.

Unless they're familiar with the novel or are fans of art house films, it's not very likely.
For sexuality.
  • HELENA BONHAM CARTER plays a woman who concocts a plan to fool her wealthy, but terminally ill friend into leaving her estate to Merton upon her death, thinking that he's in love with her.
  • LINUS ROACHE plays the boyfriend who reluctantly goes along with the plan, but then doesn't take the money in the end since he had fallen in love with the dying woman.
  • ALISON ELLIOT plays the wealthy, but terminally ill woman who wants to live life to its fullest while she can.


    OUR TAKE: 8 out of 10
    Based on the classic Henry James novel, this adaption is similar in plot to his other novel (and adapted movie), "Washington Square." In both, the lead characters are faced with the dilemma of choosing between their family inheritance and the poor men with whom they've fallen in love. However, where Jennifer Jason Leigh's character in "Square" is essentially passive toward solving her problem, the lead character here evokes an elaborate, but deviously dangerous plan.

    And it's that plan and the conflict it generates that takes this story a step beyond that other work. For Kate puts everything at risk -- her happiness, inheritance, and the man she loves -- by trying to get Merton to go along with her plan and fake being in love with Millie. If it works, they'll be rich. If it backfires, she'll lose him forever.

    The nice thing about how this is portrayed is that it's not some well-discussed plan, but instead is subtly arranged and played out. While it is a devious scheme, Kate doesn't come across as a blatantly malicious character. This is just something she has to do when she finds that she has no other viable option -- her back is literally up against the wall. Although she sounds like a despicable character, Carter creates her as such a complex person who suffers as much as the intended victim, that you're compelled to feel sorry for her. Carter is capable of manifesting amazingly complex dead stares that are somehow also filled with so much emotion that she's simply fascinating to watch.

    As a matter of fact, a great deal of all of the characters' feelings is told through their silent looks. Roache and Eliot have that gift as well and also create memorable characters. As in that other Henry James adaption, the performances here are outstanding with all three lead actors/actresses deserving high accolades. Everything else about the movie is also topnotch, from the haunting musical score to the costumes and the elegant cinematography. Don't be surprised to see several Oscar nominations for this film in both the technical and performance categories.

    Since the film is played out in several locales and isn't entirely filmed in stuffy costume drama rooms, it will probably be more accessible to mainstream audiences who often take a wide berth around such "art house" productions. While I haven't read any of the novels themselves, this may well be the best adaption -- viewed solely as a movie -- of his works. Filled with impressive performances and an intriguing plot, this is a must-see for fans of high class film making. We give "The Wings of the Dove" an 8 out of 10.

    This film features three sexual encounters, one implied, another mild one, and a rather graphic one that occurs at the end. In that last one -- that lasts several minutes -- we see female full frontal and rear nudity along with some movement. Additionally, a drawing in a book briefly shows a man and two women in a graphic sexual encounter, and several other paintings display nude women. A brief scene shows a man smoking an opium pipe, and other smoking and drinking is also seen (that the main characters participate in).

    The lead character devises and carries out a plan where she hopes to fool a wealthy, but dying friend into believing that the lead character's boyfriend loves her, thus causing her to leave him (and subsequently the lead character) her fortune. Beyond that, the other categories have little or no objectionable material. Due to some that's present, however, we suggest that you read through the scene listings to determine whether this film is appropriate for you or your family.

  • People drink wine and champagne at a wedding.
  • People drink beer in a bar in several scenes.
  • Kate and her father drink some sort of liquor.
  • People drink wine with dinner and then have after dinner drinks.
  • Lord Mark, Kate and Millie drink some sort of liquor.
  • Lord Mark drinks from a flask while shooting a rifle from the rooftop, and he appears to be drunk.
  • Lord Mark may be drunk again that night when he enters Kate's room.
  • A man smokes from an opium pipe in what appears to be an opium den.
  • Kate, Millie, and Merton drink wine in Venice.
  • Martin asks Kate if she's drunk and she replies "that's not a bad idea."
  • People drink in the backgrounds of many shots.
  • None.
  • Aunt Maud threatens to disinherit Kate if she continues her romance with Merton, and also tells her she won't take care of Kate's father is she disobeys her wishes.
  • Lord Mark tells Kate that he although he loves her, he has to marry someone else for the money, but says that the marriage doesn't have to be forever.
  • Kate has both as she plans to set up her new friend by having her believe that Merton is in love with her, knowing that she'll leave him (and perhaps Kate) her inheritance when she dies. Additionally, Merton is guilty of this, although his part of the plan changes as he begins to fall for Millie.
  • Lord Mark, who's drunk, enters Kate's room at night and for a moment or two we (as well as her) don't know what he's going to do (nothing happens).
  • Rifle: Drunkenly fired by Lord Mark from a rooftop at a rabbit.
  • Phrase: "Whore."
  • Lord Mark drinks from a flask while shooting from the rooftop and he appears to be drunk.
  • None.
  • One scene has just a minor bit of suspenseful music in it.
  • None.
  • 1 damn is used as an exclamation.
  • While Kate and Merton passionately kiss, he briefly feels her butt.
  • Kate and Millie giggle over a drawing they find in a book in the "men's section" of a bookstore. It briefly shows a man and two women engaged in a three-way sex act that includes oral sex.
  • Merton tells Kate about a story he's working on where a doctor issues "virginity certificates" to prostitutes while not sewing them (the women) back up again.
  • Kate, Merton, and Millie look at paintings of nude women in a museum/art gallery that show bare breasts and pubic hair. Another drawing shows an intertwined couple having sex while lying on the floor.
  • We hear some moaning and see just a slight bit of movement as Merton and Kate make out in an alley (up against a wall). It's implied that they have/are having sex.
  • It's implied that Merton and Millie have sex although we see nothing more than kissing.
  • Kate undresses on Merton's bed and we see both full frontal and explicit rear nudity (for several minutes). She then undresses him and climbs on top and they then have sex with her sitting on his lap (seen just from the shoulders up) with some movement. She then lays him down and has sex on top of him with more movement seen.
  • Both Merton and Kate smoke in several scenes.
  • Some people smoke pipes and cigars in the backgrounds of shots.
  • Although we don't see anything of it, or even any reactions to it, we learn that Kate's mother has recently died (which is why she's staying with her aunt Maud).
  • We briefly see Kate cleaning her mother's cemetery headstone.
  • Aunt Maud threatens to disinherit Kate if she continues her romance with Merton, and also tells her she won't take care of Kate's father is she disobeys her wishes.
  • Being able to fall in love with and marry whomever you choose.
  • What was wrong with Millie -- it's never explained although her coughing may indicate tuberculosis or some similar disease.
  • None.

  • Reviewed September 29, 1997

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    [1917] [Bombshell] [Cats] [Little Women] [Spies In Disguise] [Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker] [Uncut Gems]

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