IMDb page here
Just a quick write-up of this before I go to bed.
The trailers promised a 'fresh look' at Forster's novel, and to a degree this was true. Mr. Beebe was played as explicitly gay (well, as explicitly gay as anyone can be in Edwardian England), which I don't think is true of his character in the 1985 version with Helena Bonham-Carter. And actually Elaine Carter rather outshone the latter as Lucy Honeychurch. Somehow, when characters around her said how wonderful she was, and how exciting it would be for everybody when she at last began to live, it was actually quite believable in her case. She played her many confusions very convincingly, and her piano more truly passionately, whereas Helena Bonham-Carter sometimes came across as simply petulant. In fact, now I come to think of it, the portrayals of Cecil Vyse, George Emerson and Mr. Emerson were all profoundly human and believable, too - and if Sinéad Cusack annoyed me as Eleanor Lavish, and Sophie Thompson as Charlotte Bartlett, that probably just shows they were doing their jobs well, as those characters are supposed
to be annoying.
But something was lacking, and I suspect it was the subtle artifice of Forster's novel. His characters are beautifully delineated, and his plot smooth yet inevitable. You couldn't call either of them unrealistic. But each character stands for something specific, as does each place, and what's being played out isn't entirely a drama between individuals but a drama between attitudes and ideas. And that felt lost in this production - especially given the rather bizarre ending they tagged onto it. Far from the story coming full circle, so that Lucy and George offer their
rooms with a view to another young girl on the brink of self-discovery, we see a few brief and steamy sex scenes between the two of them, then him lying dead in a First World War bomb-crater, and finally her returning to Florence to take up with the Italian carriage-driver who had propelled her into the arms of George Emerson in the first place. I'm sure it's a very literal representation of Lucy's emancipation. But it doesn't convey the sense that her story is only representative of a wider, continuous truth that Forster's ending does.
I'm also sorry that, by forswearing the captions used in the 1985 film, my favourite chapter heading from the entire book (which practically tells the whole story in itself) did not appear on screen:
"The Reverend Arthur Beebe, the Reverend Cuthbert Eager, Mr. Emerson, Mr. George Emerson, Miss Eleanor Lavish, Miss Charlotte Bartlett, and Miss Lucy Honeychurch Drive Out in Carriages to See a View; Italians Drive Them."
A worthy use of an evening, but what it's really made me do is want to read the book again. Which just ain't possible right now with so many other things queuing up to be read.