The Wings Of The Dove

on November 07, 1997 by Kevin Courrier
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   This is a handsome adaptation of Henry James's 1902 novel, which (like "The Bostonians," "Daisy Miller" and "The Portrait of a Lady") deals with the emergence of the modern woman in a world bound by tradition, corruption and hypocrisy. But what the movie lacks is the excitement and friction of the new clashing with the old. Iain Softley of "Backbeat" and "Hackers" fame doesn't bring the impudent energy he generated in those films.
   In "The Wings of a Dove," Kate Croy (Helena Bonham Carter) finds a place in high society thanks to her Aunt Maud (Charlotte Rampling), who also keeps her desperately poor father alive providing she abides by her wishes to marry respectably. But Kate is in love with a young and penniless journalist, Merton Densher ("Priest's" Linus Roache). When Milly Theale ("The Spitfire Grill's" Alison Elliott), an attractive and wealthy young American heiress--who also happens to be dying--arrives in England, Kate launches a plot that she hopes will allow her to fulfill her goals of marrying Merton without having to defy her aunt.
   Part of what's wrong with "The Wings of a Dove" is Bonham Carter, who has played this kind of role too often. Her Kate comes across as too fractious rather than someone torn by her ambitions. Roache, however, is quite convincing as a man whose deeper emotional yearnings get the better of him. And Elliott is able to bring out Milly's dignified search for happiness and friendship without it seeming mawkish. As for Softley, a director who tries to pay reverence to a classic novel often can't make the material his own. "The Wings of a Dove" is not a terrible adaptation (like Jane Campion's "The Portrait of a Lady"), it's just not a very exciting one. Starring Helena Bonham Carter, Linus Roache, Alison Elliott and Charlotte Rampling. Directed by Iain Softley. Written by Hossein Amini. Produced by Stephen Evens and David Parfitt. A Miramax release. Drama. Rated R for sexuality. Running time: 108 min. Screened at Toronto
Tags: adaptation, period piece, corruption, hypocrisy, fatal illness, romance, marriage, family drama, Helena Bonham Carter, Linus Roache, Alison Elliott, Charlotte Rampling, Iain Softley, Hossein Amini
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