The Magnificent Ambersons

  • 2001
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama, Romance

Movie buffs rejoiced over A&E's decision to film Orson Welles's complete script of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, since his 1941 version of Booth Tarkington's best-selling novel drastically re-edited by RKO. Although this flawed production doesn't live up the hype, it's an ambitious attempt at redressing the imperfections of the truncated original. Indianapolis,...read more

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Reviewed by Robert Pardi
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Movie buffs rejoiced over A&E's decision to film Orson Welles's complete script of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, since his 1941 version of Booth Tarkington's best-selling novel drastically re-edited by RKO. Although this flawed production doesn't live up the hype, it's an ambitious attempt at redressing the imperfections of the truncated original. Indianapolis, 1904: automotive manufacturer Eugene Morgan (Bruce Greenwood) re-enters the life of his first love, Isabelle Amberson Minafer (Madeleine Stowe) — back when they were young and foolish, Isabelle married stodgy Wilbur Minafer (David Gilliam) instead of visionary suitor Eugene, because Eugene embarrassed her with a drunken serenade. Now widower Eugene is the father of beautiful Lucy (Gretchen Mol), and has defied the town's naysayers by making a success of his horseless carriage business. At the Ambersons' Ball, Lucy catches the eye of Isabelle's only child, Georgie (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) a pampered teenage hellion. As Eugene woos Isabelle and George courts Lucy, the Ambersons' aristocratic lifestyle falls victim to industrial progress. The idealistic Lucy responds to Georgie's charms, but disapproves of his sense of entitlement. Inevitably, Georgie's intense closeness to his mother spells heartache for everyone. Georgie fumes over gossip linking Eugene and Isabelle, and his petty anger is encouraged by his jealous Aunt Fanny (Jennifer Tilly), who harbors an unrequited crush on Eugene. Georgie bars Eugene from the Amberson mansion, then whisks Isabelle away on an extended European holiday, during which her health declines. As Eugene's business fortunes continue to rise, the Ambersons face bankruptcy. Although the town had always prayed for Georgie's comeuppance, it seems a hollow victory after Isabelle comes home to die. This remake was originally meant to be directed by Herbert Ross, who died before he could star work on it. Perhaps he could have realized Welles's conception, where Alfonso Arau — known for the poetic realism of LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE — romanticizes the material and miscasts the key roles of Georgie and Fanny. But though flawed, this surpassingly elegant production does do poignant justice to the doomed love story of Eugene and Isabelle.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Movie buffs rejoiced over A&E's decision to film Orson Welles's complete script of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, since his 1941 version of Booth Tarkington's best-selling novel drastically re-edited by RKO. Although this flawed production doesn't live up the… (more)

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