This film is a cautionary tale of a woman's life in the
early 1900's. The House of Mirth is the story of a woman who
just wants to live her own life and not be dependent on a man. And she
pays dearly for her decision. Gillian Anderson, most famous for her portrayal
of Scully on The X Files,
plays Lily Bart, the would-be independent woman, who unfortunately doesn't
have the money to live on her own. And so she must deal with a succession
of men, most of whom do not want her for marriage because she has a certain
reputation. This reputation is based mostly on the fact that she smokes
in public and visits the home of a single man alone. In reality,
she is the most moral person in the story. Nevertheless, she becomes
ostracized and sinks lower and lower as her financial woes grow.
The rest of the cast is very strong. Eric Stoltz plays the one man
she truly loves. Dan Ackroyd plays a married man who gives Lily money
hoping for something in return. Anthony LaPaglia is a member of the
noveau riche and so is willing to take a chance on Lily which she declines.
Laura Linney and Elizabeth McGovern play society women who try to harm
and help Lily. The story is reminiscent of The
Age of Innocence. The House of Mirth and The
Age of Innocence are both based on books by Edith
Wharton who was something of an independent woman in the early 1900's.
The same kind of politico-social intrigue is at play in both stories.
Much has changed from 1900 to 2000 but not so much as to make this story
seem like science fiction. It is still difficult to lead a life that
diverges from the social norms. This film is very well done although
it is another depressing story. I seem to be reviewing a lot of these
recently. Gillian Anderson is surprisingly good in the role if all
you have seen of her is Scully. Eric Stoltz is always good and here he
gets a more meaty role than he usually does. The House of Mirth is
beautifully shot, starting with bright sunny scenes which are replaced
by dark scenes in small places mirroring the evolution of Lily Bart's life
as she enters the usual death spiral. But don't let me scare you away.
It's definitely worth seeing.