- Movie Rating -

The Europeans (1979)

| October 8, 1979

The best thing about the works of Henry James is the way in which he could – in words – paint a beautiful canvas of beautiful places and beautiful people in beautiful clothes but fill them with an undercurrent of passion and greed and jealousy all manner of human foibles.  Everything is muted and what passes for passionate comes out in words, in turns of phrase.  James never stated it directly and so you always felt that his characters were buried under the social rules.

That undercurrent is missing from The Europeans, a movie that is beautiful what we should be feeling is missing.  There is a lifelessness to this film in which we see the manners but we hardly sense what is going on underneath.  It is based on one of James’ lesser novels (and, truth be told, not one of his better ones) about two conniving European cousins Eugenia Munster (Lee Remick) and Felix Young (Tim Woodward) and reflect the kind of bohemian lifestyle that they’ve been living in the Old Country.  She has married a baron while he has a passion for paintings and art.

They travel to New England (this is 1850) to meet their American family The Wentworths who live in a small suburb of Boston.  In opposition to the rather free-spirited manner of Eugenia and Felix, the Wentworths represent the American puritanism.  The Uncle looks to a neighbor, Mr. Brand, to help provide a moral compass that he can impart on his three children, particularly Gertrude whom Mr. Brand intends to marry.  Naturally, The Wentworths are suspicious of Eugenia and Felix.  What are they playing at?  It doesn’t take much to figure out that Eugenia’s plans are related to her marriage and her financial state.

And if this sounds dull and lifeless, that’s because it is.  The Europeans gets the cloths and the landscapes right, it gets all of the characters and their motivations in place, but it forgets to find any kind of undercurrent of human emotion.  This is more like a stage play made for PBS.  Director James Ivory, I’m sure, had a good eye on how he wanted his film to look but he seems to have taken his eye off of what the story was suppose to be about.  There are long stretches of the film where we are waiting to be engaged in the story but it never really happens.  This is a good-looking movie waiting for a human dimension.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1979) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized