James Ivory's 1984 film has about the same relation to cinema as Cliffs Notes do to literature: you get the plot, all right, but that's all you get—no body, no texture, no rhythm, no shading. Ivory's chief talent seems to be his ability to attract name performers with the lure of classy material (here an early novel by Henry James), but once he has them he's helpless—he lets them fall back on the same shtick they'd be doing in the crassest commercial film. Only Vanessa Redgrave rises here above the monotonous drone of Ivory's direction: as a suffragette battling a southern gentleman (Christopher Reeve) for the soul of a young girl, she displays a dark, obsessive grandeur that tears this flimsy film apart. With Madeleine Potter, Jessica Tandy, Linda Hunt, Nancy Marchand, and Wesley Addy.
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