Newest Review: ... to be able to do that is a mark of a great piece of art, while at the same time the film has the ability to transport me back to a time o... more
The sky over our heads
A Room With A View  (DVD)
Member Name: Jake Speed
A Room With A View  (DVD)
Advantages: Charming, great locations
Disadvantages: Nothing major
The unconventional George, in addition to the lush countryside and beautiful art of Florence, makes Lucy begin to wonder if there isn't more to life than her stuffy upbringing would suggest...
Although I find some of the Merchant Ivory films I have seen a tad dull, A Room with a View is an exception for me and two pleasant hours of upscale, sophisticated entertainment featuring a suitably strong cast of British actors. Perhaps the best thing about the film is that it isn't too ponderous or serious or arty but instead ends up rather playful and frivolous with a fairly light tone. The final result is an enjoyable and stylish film. Use of amusing chapter titles ("Lying to George" "Lying to Cecil" etc) in A Room with a View is a nicely cynical device and captures the sly spirit of the film. It is of course also exceptionally well made with the British countryside and some beautiful locations in Italy supplying wonderful backdrops and adding greatly to the charm of the film.
A Room with a View a very polished comedy of manners and you do find yourself rooting for the central protagonists and hoping that everything resolves itself happily. A Room with a View is a smaller, more compact, and more enjoyable film than, for example, David Lean's 'A Passage To India' Forster adaption of a few years before.
The coming of age and arc of Lucy Honeychurch is the heart of the film and the vague love triangle that develops between her, George and Cecil (Daniel Day-Lewis) helps to draw you into the film more and more and very eager to see how it turns out in the end. Daniel Day-Lewis does a pretty good job as the nerdy, bookish and oily Cecil, a man so uptight and dull he makes John Major look like Jim Carrey. Despite being a berk, Cecil offers security and wealth and Lucy, as a product of the establishment, is prim and proper in his presence, making plans for their unquestioned future together. It's just assumed in this era that a young woman like Lucy will marry a man like Cecil.
Daniel Day-Lewis seems to have good fun with the character of Cecil Vyse, an arrogant upper-class twit who unknowingly competes with George for Lucy. "He's the sort who can't know anyone intimately, least of all a woman," says George of Cecil. "He doesn't know what a woman is. He wants you for a possession, something to look at, like a painting or an ivory box. Something to own and to display. He doesn't want you to be real, and to think and to live."
Lucy begins the film as an observer of life but the arrival of George slowly makes her begin to question everything, including old Cecil. Her true personality has never been allowed to develop but George, and his equally eccentric and free-spirited father (Denholm Elliott), awaken Lucy's feelings and sense of herself. The brief encounter between Lucy and George in a barley field is a very famous and romantic scene in A Room with a View.
Helena Bonham Carter is perfectly cast as Lucy Honeychurch. In an endless array of very authentic and buttoned up period costumes, she genuinely looks and sounds as if she's just walked out of another era. Bonham Carter also does a good job in conveying a sense of growing independence and passion beneath the prim exterior and has one of the sulkiest and most charming frowns in cinematic history. You couldn't imagine anyone else in the role. Julian Sands is, let's be honest, probably not the world's greatest actor. However, he is suitably dashing as George in A Room with a View and his slightly odd delivery adds to the offbeat and unconventional nature of his character in a strange way. I have no idea what Sands is up to now but he'll probably always be remembered for his role here as George Emerson. You do always want George and Lucy to ditch Cecil and run away together so A Room with a View always keeps your attention once it has it.
Elsewhere, Maggie Smith is memorable and excellent as Lucy's fussy chaperone Charlotte Bartlett and Judi Dench brings her usual twitchy authority to the role of Eleanor Lavish. Simon Callow camps it up a bit as The Reverend Mr Beebe and Rupert Graves is a tad annoying as Lucy's floppy haired and hyperactive Hooray Henry brother Freddy, but Denholm Elliott is excellent as usual as the eccentric but wise Mr Emerson. Elliott creates a warm, distinctive and very likeable character and adds to the overall charm and pleasant nature of the film. "I don't care what I see outside. My vision is within!" says Mr Emerson.
The lush visuals are enhanced by a pleasant and well chosen score and A Room with a View reeks of elegance which transforms it into a very nice piece of escapism. The film is, of course, very romantic and old fashioned too.
A Room with a View is a bit mannered in places but overall is a charming and very well made film that contains much to enjoy. The locations alone make it worth a look.