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The House of the Spirits Movie Review

streep august irons jeremy

Readers with warm memories of Isabel Allende's classic 1982 novel, La Casa de los Espiritus, are well advised to treasure them and skip Miramax's ILL-advised screen translation with an award-winning international cast. From the moment you see the horrifyingly miscast Jeremy Irons trying to look like a poor suitor from Chile, you KNOW that every second of this 138-minute mess is going to be a DOOZY! I may be the only person who saw Reversal of Fortune who was convinced that Irons won the 1990 Oscar as Claus Von Bulow by neglecting to blow his nose before he said his lines, and he's even worse here: “Hey, everybody, I'm not really from the Isle of Wight, check out the wig, check out the makeup, and check out the weird voice; all right, so it wouldn't fool anyone in Chile, but you'll never guess how I did it!” I can guess, though, and it's grisly to listen to his phlegm-ridden delivery for two hours and eighteen minutes. Next on the miscast list is Glenn Close as Jeremy Irons’ sister. Maybe it's the fact that the film spans 50 years and she never ages or even changes her clothes. Close is hung up on her sister-in-law Clara, played by Meryl Streep, who is the only member of the cast who escapes looking downright silly. Vanessa Redgrave is seen briefly as Streep's mother, and the narration is supplied by the very American Winona Ryder as the daughter of Irons and Streep. It IS within the realm of possibility that even this cast might have been credible with a different script and a different director, but the script and direction here are both supplied by Bille August. Rarely has such impressive source material wound up in the hands of someone so totally out of touch with it. Where Allende's book is non-judgmental and compassionate, August's interpretation is laughable. How else can one explain a sequence in which Irons rapes Sarita Choudhury, that is followed immediately by Ryder's off-camera line, “My father earned everything he got by his own work?” Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep age on camera, except that Streep's hands are as smooth as a baby's on her deathbed. Maria Conchita Alonso is supposed to be Irons’ contemporary, but the older he gets, the younger she looks; C'MON, NO ONE NOTICED THIS IN CONTINUITY? Or was this stifled by the fact that August won an Oscar so he HAD to know what he was doing? August telegraphs every relationship shift, every plot development, every chuckle, every impending tragedy—did I mention that this thing was 138 minutes long? Cast Note: Besides Armin Mueller-Stahl, Antonio Banderas, Miriam Colon, Vincent Gallo, Jan Niklas, Teri Polo et al, the beautiful little girl who plays Clara as a child is Meryl Streep's real-life 10-year-old daughter, Mary Willa Gummer, billed here as Jane Gray. woof!

1993 (R) 109m/C Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons, Glenn Close, Winona Ryder, Antonio Banderas, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Vanessa Redgrave, Sarita Choudhury, Maria Conchita Alonso, Vincent Gallo, Miriam Colon, Jan Niklas, Teri Polo, Jane Gray; D: Bille August; W: Bille August; C: Jorgen Persson; M: Hans Zimmer. VHS, LV, Letterbox, Closed Caption

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