Washington Square

  • 1997
  • Movie
  • PG
  • Drama, Romance

Director Agnieszka Holland bounces back from the disastrously pretentious TOTAL ECLIPSE with this admirably accomplished adaptation of Henry James' novel of 18th-century New York. Catherine Sloper (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is an unprepossessing, socially inept young heiress who must swallow a simple but devastating truth: Her father does not love her. Not...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Director Agnieszka Holland bounces back from the disastrously pretentious TOTAL ECLIPSE with this admirably accomplished adaptation of Henry James' novel of 18th-century New York. Catherine Sloper (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is an unprepossessing, socially inept young

heiress who must swallow a simple but devastating truth: Her father does not love her. Not only does Dr. Sloper (Albert Finney) consider Catherine a dull disappointment, but he holds her responsible for the death of her beautiful mother, who died in childbirth. Dr. Sloper threatens to disinherit

Catherine if she ever marries Morris Townsend (Ben Chaplin) -- the dashing but penniless suitor who may only be interested in her fortune -- but seems far less motivated by the desire to protect his daughter from a fortune hunter than by a cruel attempt to deny Catherine what may be her one shot

at happiness. Washington Square first came to the screen in 1949 as THE HEIRESS, a virtually flawless film that defies remaking. Holland and screenwriter Carol Doyle wisely steer clear of imitation and return instead to the novel, fleshing out Catherine's relationship with her father rather

than focusing on Townsend, whose villainy here is rendered provocatively ambiguous. The crude prologue, which unnecessarily dramatizes Catherine's youth, is a regrettable mistake, but soon after everything falls into place. Leigh achieves a remarkable mixture of artless passion and wrenching

pathos, while the suitably handsome Chaplin demonstrates an usual depth of character. Added bonus: Maggie Smith as Catherine's dangerously dotty Aunt Penniman. She's pitch-perfect and as wonderful as ever.

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  • Released: 1997
  • Rating: PG
  • Review: Director Agnieszka Holland bounces back from the disastrously pretentious TOTAL ECLIPSE with this admirably accomplished adaptation of Henry James' novel of 18th-century New York. Catherine Sloper (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is an unprepossessing, socially inep… (more)

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