Dove Lays Gorgeous Egg
Beautifully photographed in Venice and London, The Wings of the Dove brings one of literature's most famous love triangles to the big screen. Based on the fascinating novel by Henry James, this slow moving but visually stunning movie stars Helena Bonham Carter, Alison Elliott, and Linus Roache as three people who try to manipulate love for their own purposes.
Bonham Carter plays Kate, an opportunistic young Londoner who, in the early 1900s, falls in love with Merton (Roache), a journalist of limited means. Kate is befriended by Milly (Elliott), a terminally ill American heiress who also shows an interest in Merton. Kate pushes these two together, hoping to end up eventually with Merton as well as with Milly's money.
Looking fabulous in their period costumes, Bonham Carter (Mighty Aphrodite) and Elliott (The Spitfire Grill) complement each other like orchids and moonlight. Bonham Carter's striking beauty gives Kate an exotic appeal, and Elliott's ethereal interpretation of Milly evokes memories of the great Geraldine Page at her best.
According to British director Iain Softley (Hackers), the film's most difficult role to cast was that of Merton Densher, the man who is lured into Kate's plan and then finds himself drawn to both women. Softley explains he selected Roache because he felt the young actor, so critically acclaimed in Priest, could be "both dynamic and hesitant in an effortless way needed for this key role."
Roache admits he deliberately avoided any special preparaton for the role. "I usually do intense study and preparation, but I decided to experiment and go with the flow, since this seemed to fit Merton's character," he said.
Commenting on the lack of clear-cut motivations for the movie's main characters, Roache declared, "This is not your usual everything-spelled-out-for-you film. Although the ambiguity might not work for everyone, it's an intriguing part of the story."
Roache expressed hope that viewers would "surrender to the poetry and magic of the film's hypnotic quality," especially to the beauty of the scenes in Venice.
While I can't argue with Roache about the film's superb visual artistry, I found its plodding pace relentlessly annoying. If watching colorful paint dry gives you a thrill, this is the movie for you. Nevertheless, The Wings of the Dove presents a vivid reminder that even in matters of the heart, the end never justifies the means.
(Released by Miramax and rated "R" for sexuality.)