House of Mirth"
|By Mira Harber
Be warned - this movie is anything but what the title might suggest - it
is no comedy. Gillian Anderson (Scully of X-files fame), Dan Akroyd (being
serious) and a host of other well-known American actors grace the screen
in this adaptation of Edith Wharton's novel The House of Mirth.
I'm always a little wary of period piece movies that feature American actors.
Once I got over my discomfort (or perhaps as the actors eased into their
roles), I grew to really enjoy this film, and as I write this review, several
days later, it stays with me still, always a sign to me of a very good
The heroine of the film Lily (Gillian Anderson) is of an age and class
when it is time for her to be married. She is an upper class New Yorker
in the early part of the 20th century, and has been trained with no vocation
but to marry. Her life is that of her class - one long round of lunches,
dinner-parties, the Opera, and cruises to exotic locales. Her role in life
is extremely prescribed and she has no other option at this point in her
life but to find a husband. Lily is very drawn to a society lawyer (Eric
Stolz), but is keeping her options open - she's still looking for someone
with more money, status etc. to keep her in the style to which she is accustomed.
Lily is alone in the world - she has no family but an elderly maiden aunt
on whom she is dependant, and from whom she expects to receive a large
Here I believe is Lily's fatal flaw - she doesn't know herself or her world
well enough to entirely on her own. When left to make all of the really
important decisions in life, she fails miserably. She is not a good judge
of character, and she lives to pay the price. Lily's downfall is all of
her own making, but it is painful to watch, and may be difficult to understand
for some of today's viewers.
Lily needs to marry; she has at least four wealthy suitors, what's hard
about that? It starts like this; Lily gets herself heavily into debt through
gambling, and takes on the particularly porcine Dan Akroyd as her investment
Stolz, who plays the never-fully-declared object of Lily's love, is strangely
elusive and unemotive. He seems so cold by his actions on screen, that
the audience never really understand that he loves Lily madly. Lily's love
for him seems like a case of unrequited love, which it is not. If ever
a movie needed some dotting of itís, filling in the blanks, (horror of
horrors) explanatory voice-overs, this is it.
Laura Linney (Oscar nominated for her role in You Can Count on Me)
steals the picture - when she comes on screen, it is as if we are hit with
a bolt of energy. Her laughter, her manipulations and machinations give
this picture the life it sometimes lacks.
House of Mirth is far from perfect, but it has enough depth and resonance
that days after seeing it, I'm still thinking about it. Lily's predicament
speaks loudly to the modern woman.