I first saw this movie soon after it came out in 1992. I’m not sure what I thought about it then, but I do remember being put off by the ending; it all seemed a bit abrupt and not a little melodramatic.
But, since I didn’t really remember it that well, I picked it up soon after finishing reading Howards End this time, just to see if it holds up as a movie, and as a book adaptation.
And, while the acting is brilliant — it is Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, after all — and the costuming and the scenery is gorgeous — it is Merchant-Ivory, after all — I’m not quite sure
how I liked it as a movie.
My first impression was that if I hadn’t read the book, I wouldn’t have been quite able to follow the plot. It seemed to fall into the trap that many books from movies do: it was wonderfully acted, beautiful scenes lifted straight from the book. There was no real coherent plot arc; questions arose –like: who was that woman with Lenny? Why was he going to the Schlegels? Why don’t the Wilcoxes like Margaret? — that were answered in the book, but had no real answers in the movie. It held together by sheer force of will and personality. And the ending really is quite melodramatic, much more so than the book.
To be fair, Hubby came in about halfway through, watched the rest of it with me, and said it held up fine. Then again, he has a better memory than I do, and is better at catching subtleties in movies than I am. But, for me, it was a bit of a failure. A beautiful, well-acted failure, but a failure nonetheless.