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"WASHINGTON SQUARE"
(1997) (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Albert Finney) (PG)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Mild Minor Moderate Minor None
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
*None None None None Minor
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Minor Mild Moderate Minor None


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: An awkward young heiress must choose between her debonair, but jobless suitor, and her domineering father who believes her boyfriend is only after the family fortune.
PLOT:
Catherine Sloper (JENNIFER JASON LEIGH) is an awkward young heiress who lives with her father, Dr. Austin Sloper (ALBERT FINNEY). His medical practice and previous marriage into a wealthy family has left him with a generous fortune, a competent staff, and a high social standing. Since his wife died giving birth to Catherine, Austin has depended on Lavinia Penniman (MAGGIE SMITH), to raise his daughter and teach her the important social skills necessary for finding a husband in her elitist world. Catherine, however, has a will of her own and her behavior seems both odd and irritating to her father. When a handsome, debonair suitor, Morris Townsend (BEN CHAPLIN) comes along and falls for Catherine, one would expect Austin to be ecstatic. Instead, he sees Morris as a jobless playboy who's after the Sloper wealth through Catherine. Although Lavinia actively encourages the relationship, Austin forbids it and warns Catherine that she'll lose her inheritance should she marry Morris. From that moment on, Catherine must decide whether to obey and please her father, or make herself happy by marrying Morris.
WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Other than teens who like "art house" films, no kids will be interested in seeing this film.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG
For thematic elements including some sensuality, a childbirth scene and brief mild language.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • JENNIFER JASON LEIGH plays the heiress who, against her father's wishes & demands, still plans to marry the man with whom she's fallen in love.
  • BEN CHAPLIN plays the unemployed suitor who turns out to have had monetary as well as romantic interests in Catherine.
  • ALBERT FINNEY plays the domineering father who believes his daughter isn't bright enough to figure out that Morris is after the family fortune.
  • MAGGIE SMITH plays the aunt who lives vicariously through Catherine's romance, and works hard trying to make sure the two get married.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
    This film, a remake of the 1949 production, "The Heiress," and based on the Henry James novel, has its work cut out for it right from the start. That's because the original film, starring Olivia De Havilland and Montgomery Clift, was nominated for many Academy Awards and won De Havilland an Oscar for her role as Catherine (and the film also won for best Music, Production Design, Costumes, and Art Direction). Fortunately few audience members know of that earlier version and thus this remake gets a chance to stand on its own. And it does just that with great performances from Leigh and Finney (a four-time Oscar nominee) that will delight "art house" crowds but will probably not gain much of a crossover audience into the mainstream. The highlight of the feature is Maggie Smith's take on the supporting character of Lavinia. Her constantly busy matchmaker activities provide the film with some much needed comic relief -- albeit brief -- that lightens up the somewhat depressing story. A five-time Oscar nominee and one-time winner, Smith is a delight to watch. Production values are first-rate (much like the original) with the costuming, props and cinematography expertly capturing the period feel.

    While mainstream audience members who are used to complex or action-filled plots may find this film to be too much of a "costume drama," others will revel in its more mature approach to storytelling. Simply the story of a father/daughter struggle, the production allows Leigh and Finney to show off their acting skills. Although it's doubtful that Leigh will win -- or for that matter be nominated -- for her performance, it's still very good and she lends her usual suppressed fieriness to her role. Finney is absolutely superb in his role and may just get an Oscar nod in the Best Supporting category while Chaplin (the love interest in "The Truth About Cats & Dogs") also delivers a competent performance. While not a ground-breaking or exciting feature, "Washington Square" showcases great performances in a slow-paced but satisfactory plot. We give this film a 7 out of 10.

    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    About as tame as a PG-rated film can get, "Washington Square" won't attract many children, but if they or you want to see this film, there's very little to object to. There's a brief post childbirth scene that may upset younger kids, but it's not too bad. Some drinking and smoking occur, but aren't glamorized. Probably the worst thing found in the movie is the father's behavior and attitude toward his daughter (neither of which is particularly good nor nice). Not listed below is a very brief moment when Catherine, as a young and extremely self-conscious girl, loses bladder control and accidentally pees on the floor during a music recital. Beyond all of that, there's not much else to object to, but just to make sure for yourself, you should read through the content.

    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Austin, Morris, and others occasionally drink port (a wine), with Morris drinking what appears to be beer in another scene.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • The sheets around Catherine's mother (who's just died giving birth to her) are a little bloody and the woman is seen lying dead on her bed.
  • Catherine watches a staged (and fake) guillotine display during a carnival where a woman is beheaded and a fake head (with a slightly bloody stump) is then held up by the executioner.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Austin thinks poorly of Catherine, from the time she was little and would greet him at the door (not becoming of a proper lady, he says) to her as an adult (he says that "she's as stubborn as a mule and twice as stupid"). He also offers to pay Morris (through his sister) to stay away from Catherine and then tells his daughter that she'll be disinherited if she continues to see him.
  • Morris changes his attitude toward Catherine once he realizes she'll be cut off from her father's wealth. While he says he's concerned about her relationship with her father, in reality he's also concerned with the money.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • There's a very brief scene where a woman's screams are heard, people are crying and the camera then awkwardly makes its way to a bedroom where we see Catherine's dead mother after having just given birth.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • None.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Other than the smoking and drinking, there is none.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • None.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • 1 damn and 1 "For God's sakes" are used as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • A medical bust of a woman displays one breast, and a medical outline sketch shows a nude woman in Austin's office.
  • There's some heated, passionate kissing between Catherine and Morris, but nothing ever comes of it.
  • Some sort of activity occurs behind Lavinia as she talks to Morris. While our sight of it's mostly blocked, we hear a woman's moans and some sort of movement is partially seen (and Lavinia even questions what's going on).
  • SMOKING
  • Austin, Morris, and a few others in the backgrounds of shots occasionally smoke cigars.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Catherine's mother dies while giving birth to her.
  • Catherine knows that her father doesn't look highly upon her (she even comments that he "despises" her), and he thinks she's a social misfit. Additionally, he forbids her marriage to Morris and says that he'll disinherit her from the family wealth.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Dating and how parents accept or don't accept their children's boyfriends/girlfriends.
  • VIOLENCE
  • None.



  • Reviewed September 3, 1997

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