“I’ve been pretending all this time; I’ve been dishonest. It’s pleasure that I care for.”
A penniless baroness (Lee Remick) and her artistic brother (Tim Woodward) visit their cousins in America, where Woodward immediately falls for non-conformist Gertrude (Lisa Eichhorn), and Remick is pursued by a local businessman (Robin Ellis).
Merchant-Ivory’s adaptation of Henry James’ novella is an unassuming, quietly absorbing tale of class relations and romantic maneuverings in upper-class 18th century New England. Several of the characters (i.e., Woodward’s “playboy” European, Wesley Addy’s puritanical patriarch) at first come across as mere stereotypes, but they eventually foil our expectations, turning into (mostly) likeable individuals — all of whom (like the protagonists in Jane Austen’s novels) are simply attempting to find happiness and/or security within the restricted confines of their social circles. However, despite a host of fine performances (Eichhorn is particularly appealing), typically lovely Merchant-Ivory period sets and costumes, and gorgeous cinematography, the film as a whole never quite coheres as it should — largely because the motivations of certain key characters aren’t fully explained, and their various intrigues are simply not dramatic enough to make us sit up and take notice. With that said, as DVD Savant notes in his insightful review of the film, “Those able to get down to The Europeans‘ quiet, subtle level of discourse will [likely] be charmed.”
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Lee Remick as the Baroness
- Lisa Eichhorn as Gertrude
- Tim Woodward as Felix
- Fine period sets and costumes
- Lush cinematography
No, though fans of Merchant-Ivory films will certainly want to check it out, and it’s worth seeking out for one-time viewing.