The House of Mirth
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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.