REVIEW: "Golden Bowl" Cracked; Merchant Ivory's James Misstep
by Brandon Judell
(indieWIRE/ 04.27.01) -- Charlotte Stant is an exquisite, snappish, self-interested, and impoverished American living life at the beck and call of European high society, members of which no doubt enjoy having such a pretty decoration on hand to brighten up their overstuffed sofas or exhausted dinner tables. As embodied by Uma Thurman in James Ivory's latest adaptation of a Henry James novel, this damsel is intermittently incandescent -- although she's no Helena Bonham Carter.
Having scoured a highly mismanaged Manhattan branch of Hollywood Video -- whose employees believe alphabetization is some Ancient Greek circumcision ritual that one should have very little to do with -- I came out away with two Henry James realizations (the invigorating "The Wings of the Dove" and the more docile "The Portrait of the Lady") plus two splendid James Ivory costume dramas based on texts by E. M. Forster ("Howard's End" and "A Room with a View"). Three of these star Miss Bonham Carter who has pretty much made a career of wearing her lush tresses down to her buttocks while attired in heavily petticoated affairs that she has to lift up to allow her inner lust to be sated by some equally on-fire guy. To hell with the societal mores of the time.
To Miss Bonham Carter's credit, she makes every one of her historical creations improbably feasible, sort of like a cultured pre-Twentieth Century Traci Lords. In fact, there should be a law that no costume drama about a young woman in ankle-length gowns who's about to lose her virginity should star anyone else but Miss Bonham Carter.
Sadly, the cracked "Golden Bowl," the tale about the previously mentioned Miss Stant, was made before Joe Lieberman could have enacted such a law.
Well, overlooking this misstep, I'll go on with the plot: Charlotte Stant is in love with the impoverished Italian Prince Amerigo (Jeremy Northam) who's about to wed Maggie Verver (Kate Beckinsale), the daughter of America's first billionaire Adam (Nick Nolte). You see the Prince needs some cash flow to renovate the family castle, and while Miss Stant would supply great sex, she's no Martha Stewart. She is though a school friend of Maggie, who's unaware her fianc