May’s Movie Review: Howard’s End

May synopsis: Sometimes I’m in the mood for a slow and subtle period film. It’s all fine and understated until someone wields a sword.

May’s rating scale:

MAY!

May?

meh…

meh?

MESS.

(The following is actually a response I wrote for a class. I haven’t written a review in a while, and I thought this could serve both purposes.)

Howard’s End, a film adaptation of a novel of the same name by E. M. Forster, recounts the relationship of three families in England at the beginning of the 20th century. The Wilcoxes are wealthy and landed capitalists; the Schlegels appear to be bourgeois, and the Basts represent the lower middle class. The movie is marvelously cast, and the acting is exquisite, bringing a quiet power to the movie’s overall understatedness.

The film seems to depict the tension between these three socioeconomic statuses. Henry Wilcox, played by Anthony Hopkins, seems content to interact with the bourgeois sisters, Margaret and Helen Schlegel, who are played by Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter. Henry even marries Margaret. However, his rootedness in tradition emerges when Helen Schelgel becomes pregnant by Leonard Bast, played by Samuel West. First, Helen is not married when she becomes pregnant, and according to tradition, she should be shunned. Secondly, the other responsible party is a man from a lower class than the Wilcoxes. Helen should have not have become involved with him.

In keeping with tradition of double standards in a patriarchal society, Henry Wilcox’s past emerges when he admits to Margaret that he had a mistress. He cannot be bothered with this particular skeleton when Margaret brings up this fact to show how hypocritical Henry is as she asks him to allow Helen to stay his estate, Howard’s End, for one evening. He adamantly refuses. Life has always been a certain way for him, and he refuses to see anything differently.

It isn’t until Henry’s son goes to prison for murdering Leonard Bast (seeming a true hate crime) that he undergoes a change of heart.  He decides to bequeath Howard’s End to the Schlegels, and Helen plans to raise her new son as heir.

Howard’s End illustrates the shift in mentality in early Modernist England, regarding who should own land and how the classes should interact. In certain aspects, the country at that time slowly opened itself up to new and evolving ideas of society.

***

Emma Thompson’s character wore ties. I want to do that.

May’s Movie Review: Wit

May’s synopsis: The writing really appealed to me; the actors delivered. Very effective, very powerful. Very Emma Thompson. So sad, but SO good.

May’s scale rating:

MAY!

May?

meh…

meh?

MESS.

 

This movie was taken from a play by the same name. It’s about a professor (Emma Thompson) who has terminal cancer. Christopher Lloyd is her doctor, and he prescribes a pretty intense treatment regimen. He connects her to a flux capacitor and streams about 80 jigawatts through her body.

Wait. Almost.

This movie comes off very much like a play with various switches between scenes. The dialogues between Emma Thompson’s monologues are well-placed. The flashbacks are particularly poignant. The story progresses slowly, if painfully, but that’s what it’s going for. The pauses are long and uncomfortable. The movie essentially begs the viewer’s participation.

Emma Thompson often speaks directly to the camera. She shares insights about her experience at the hospital. She introduces flashbacks. She confuses her presence with her memories. The movie develops really well.

Christopher Lloyd is the medical, intellectual counterpart to Emma Thompson’s character as an English professor. This movie follows her humanization to the end, while Christopher Lloyd and his medical team remain a detached fixture, for lack of a better oxymoron.

There are a few minor characters that add so much power to this story. This story is about human nature, one’s need for a personal connection, how we are to treat each other.

There are also characters that will infuriate you and compel you to root for Emma Thompson, even though up until the time she got sick she was a Very Not Nice Person. You’re human; it’s the Right Thing To Do.

This movie will make you cry. I cried the first time I watched it, then I took it home and watched it three more times. These days, I appreciate how the movie doesn’t lose power with each viewing.

It’s a relatively simple film, with minimal scenes that depend heavily on the actors to carry the story. Carry they do, perhaps even cradle. Or finesse.

The writing is excellent, as most plays can’t or shouldn’t really depend on special effects. The subject matter is relevant. The story flows, in part due to the writing, but also because the acting measures up. Because the writing is so good. Because the actors commit to the parts. Because the writing creates the strong characters. Writing. Acting. Yay!

I love this movie.