It's all but impossible not to see Adrian Lyne's film of Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel through a scrim of fevered controversy. But on its own merits it's really no more shocking than 1992's THE LOVER (based on the autobiographical
novel by Marguerite Duras), a strikingly similar mix of soft-core imagery and pedigreed philosophy from the boudoir. Initially unhampered by the stringent mores that forced Stanley Kubrick and Nabokov himself -- he scripted the 1962 LOLITA -- to dance around the particulars of European aesthete
Humbert Humbert's obsession with gum-snapping American jailbait Dolores "Lolita" Hayes, Lyne and his screenwriter are extremely faithful to the events of Nabokov's novel, and try to salvage fragments of its shimmering language in the form of voice-overs. Lyne's direction is sometimes overblown --
debauched playwright Clare Quilty's (Frank Langella) appearance amid the pale fire of exploding bug-zappers really is a bit much -- and the unfortunate fact is that the novel is one long tease, an intricate, seductive game in which words are as important as deeds. The tricky beauty of Humbert's
telling -- a gossamer thing of lies and evasions and self-justifying spin -- is inevitably lost when the tale is brought to life in the all-too-solid flesh of actors, no matter how perfectly cast. That said, Lyne scored a perfect Humbert in the wearily handsome Jeremy Irons, who trails a whiff of
corruption picked up from roles in films like DAMAGE, REVERSAL OF FORTUNE and DEAD RINGERS. Equally flawless is Dominique Swain, unnervingly seductive and conniving in some scenes, childishly coarse in others. Peter Sellers fans may miss his blackly comic Quilty, but Langella's reptilian
interpretation nails the character's true monstrousness: Melanie Griffith strikes the only false note, capturing the vulgarity of Lolita's blowsy mother but missing her self-deluded vulnerability.
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- Released: 1997
- Rating: R
- Review: It's all but impossible not to see Adrian Lyne's film of Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel through a scrim of fevered controversy. But on its own merits it's really no more shocking than 1992's THE LOVER (based on the autobiographical novel by Marguerite Dura… (more)