movie film review | chris tookey

Howards End / Howard's End

Merchant Ivory - all rights reserved
  Howards End  / Howard's End Review
Tookey's Rating
7 /10
Average Rating
8.77 /10
Anthony Hopkins , Vanessa Redgrave , Helena Bonham Carter
Full Cast >

Directed by: James Ivory
Written by: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala from E.M.Forster's novel

Released: 1992
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: GB
Length: 140


An emancipated, educated woman (Emma Thompson, pictured right) is wooed by a businessman (Anthony Hopkins, pictured left) who has robbed her of an inheritance.

Reviewed by Chris Tookey

Bookmark and Share

This classy Merchant Ivory film faithfully reproduces Forster's skilful narrative surprises and the dramatic conflict between the caring, artistic Schlegels and the mean-minded, acquisitive Wilcoxes. Howards End is beautifully mounted, impeccably acted and demonstrates Ivory's unrivalled talent for expressing people's character through their possessions. Special credit, too, to the exquisite Oscar-winning design by Luciana Arrighi, Jenny Beavan and John Bright. The inspired cinematography by Tony Pierce-Roberts was Oscar-nominated, as were Sheena Napier's costumes and Richard Robbins's music.
Unfortunately, as in The Bostonians, director Ivory is over-indulgent to Vanessa Redgrave (I know she's a great actress, but the plot acquires momentum only after her character has died). Screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala fails yet again to be sufficiently Ruthless with her source material: the opening 45 minutes could usefully have been compressed into 30, and she never addresses the central mystery of Forster's novel: why a generous-spirited, artistic "new woman" such as Margaret Schlegel chooses to marry a mean, boring old hypocrite like Wilcox - even if he is played by the admirable Anthony Hopkins.
The screenplay falls short of the novel by failing to make us care enough about the two Schlegel girls, even though they are played with attractive sensitivity by Helena Bonham Carter and Emma Thompson. And there's an unconscious snobbery in Forster which dates and diminishes even his best work. The working-class hero of his sub-plot, Leonard Bast (splendidly interpreted by Samuel West as an explosive mixture of pride and deference), lacks the vibrancy which H.G.Wells or Arnold Bennett would have given him and seems to be deemed interesting by Forster only because of his literary leanings, while Bast's wife (played by another promising newcomer, Nicola Duffett) disappears much too abruptly when Forster - like Henry Wilcox - has no further use for her.

Key to Symbols