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House of Mirth, The | 2000 | Gillian Anderson Dan Aykroyd


House of Mirth, The | 2000 | Gillian Anderson Dan Aykroyd

Those who bracket Wharton with the dull and worthy Merchant Ivory will be shocked by the bloodless brutality – echoed by Scorsese’s Age of Innocence – behind a genteel era in Terence Davies’ film.
In 1900s New York, young Lily Bart (Gillian Anderson) meets her friend Lawrence Selsden (Eric Stoltz), and is entertained by Gus Trenor (Dan Aykroyd). Courted by the worthy but dull Percy, she rejects his advances upon learning of his gambling debts, and returns to Selsden.
Under the patronage of her aunt, Lily dreams of romance, but when she discovers an affair he once had with glamorous socialite Bertha (Laura Linney), her attentions are diverted. On hearing of her financial plight, Trenor offers to invest her savings for her, and Lily’s world begins to unravel, slowly yet inexorably heading for social exclusion and a dark fate…
Davies evokes the author’s vision of savage propriety by taking more than a few gambles. Small but telling changes to the novel (including a new, unambiguous finale) are worthwhile, and the seemingly novelty casting of a ghost chaser and an ageing Ghostbuster is vindicated early on. Anderson leaves her X-Files baggage behind, displaying an emotional range that Aykroyd matches.
Shot in Glasgow (a remarkable double for east coast America), Remi Adefarisin’s photography is sumptuous and seductive (like his work on Elizabeth), matching the adapted script with an imposing, intimidating tone that prefigures Lily’s changing fortunes. The story’s timeless and universal appeal is undeniable, with Davies comparing his heroine’s experiences with those of another cosseted generation. “There are extraordinary similarities in the story to many societies and groupings of today,” he believes. “Not least the casting world of Hollywood where, to someone on the outside, it appears to be completely arbitrary who’s in favour and who’s not.”

Gillian Anderson as Lily Bart
Dan Aykroyd as Augustus ‘Gus’ Trenor
Eleanor Bron as Mrs. Julia Peniston, Lily’s Aunt
Terry Kinney as George Dorset
Anthony LaPaglia as Sim Rosedale
Laura Linney as Bertha Dorset
Jodhi May as Grace Julia Stepney
Elizabeth McGovern as Mrs. Carry Fisher
Eric Stoltz as Lawrence Selden
Penny Downie as Judy Trenor
Pearce Quigley as Percy Gryce
Helen Coker as Evie Van Osburgh
Mary MacLeod as Mrs. Haffen
Morag Siller as Mary Lee
Clare Higgins as Mrs. Bry
Brian Pettifer as Mr. Bry
Leslie Harcourt as Mattie Gormer
Director: Terence Davies
UK, FR, DE, US | 140 minutes | 2000

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