My approach to February’s Genre Grandeur is similar to my approach for last month’s blogathon. As the theme this time around is ‘movies that take place or feature Italian settings’, I could have selected one of several Hallmark productions where Italy serves as the story’s backdrop. Instead, I overlooked the realm of Hallmark for a movie that happened to be on my DVR; 1985’s A Room with a View! When I discovered the film’s protagonist, Lucy, travels to Florence, Italy, I knew it would the perfect selection for this month’s Genre Grandeur. Because my choices for 2023’s blogathon have, so far, featured a female protagonist traveling abroad (A Room with a View and Black Narcissus), I saw this is as a very interesting coincidence. In my review of Black Narcissus, I thought the 1947 film was just ok, as the movie emphasized style over substance. Did I feel the same way about A Room with a View? Take a trip through this review to find out!
Things I liked about the film:
Interactions between characters: A Room with a View is an ensemble film, with the actors and actresses coming from all walks of life and journeys in their careers. The characters reflect this idea, as they travel to Italy for various reasons. Because of everything I just said, it was interesting to see each interaction between the characters unfold. One of the funniest scenes was shared between Charlotte, portrayed by Maggie Smith, and Eleanor, portrayed by Judi Dench. Eleanor is a writer, a woman who adopts a more romantic view of the world. Meanwhile, Charlotte is more of a realist, someone who views the world through a practical lens. As they explore Florence, Eleanor encourages Charlotte to breath in the scent of the city, in an attempt to make the most of their traveling experience. Instead, Charlotte puts a handkerchief over her nose, as she and Eleanor just walked past a group of smokers. Due to the screenwriting, as well as Judi’s and Maggie’s performance, this scene elaborates my aforementioned points!
The scenery: As I stated in the introduction, I chose to review A Room with a View because of Lucy’s trip to Florence. Therefore, my discussions about the movie’s scenery will focus on the Italian background. Toward the beginning of the film, Lucy visits a cathedral. In the interior of this massive structure, the main hall is surrounded in light gray stone. Symmetrical stone columns with matching hue and carved designs burst from the cathedral’s high ceiling. Filled with giant statues, a sprinkling of candles, and artwork within the cathedral’s alcoves, the large scale of this space was captured well through various camera angles!
During Lucy’s trip, she and several tourists visit Florence’s countryside. While enjoying their picnic, the characters sit on rolling green hills, coated in varying shades of green. Trees proudly stood among the guests, joining their event from a distance. A few red-orange poppies poked out of the sea of grass, providing the landscape with a pop of bright color. Wrapped up in a clear, sunny sky, Florence’s countryside looked postcard perfect!
Lucy’s wardrobe: Since this was my first time watching A Room with a View, I had no expectations when it came to Lucy’s wardrobe. But as the story progressed, I found myself adoring Lucy’s attire, as it was classy and elegant! An excellent example is what Lucy decided to wear to her piano recital. Lucy wore a cream-colored gown with puffed lace sleeves. The scooped neckline was surrounded by embroidered flowers. Sparkles covered the bodice of the dress, providing just enough twinkle. Paired with a jeweled belt, Lucy’s gown was simply beautiful!
What I didn’t like about the film:
The drawn-out story: A Room with a View’s primary focus was Lucy’s growing attraction for George, who she met on her trip to Florence. But alongside that part of the story were situations involving the other characters from this ensemble. These situations were competing against one another for the audience’s attention. One situation happened after Lucy came home to England. She tries to recruit some of the trip’s guests to stay in a local cottage. Her fiancé, Cecil, recruits guests to the cottage, who just so happen to be George and his father. However, the emphasis on the cottage’s status is one of the reasons why Lucy’s attraction for George isn’t resolved until the last forty minutes of the movie. Because of these things and the film’s two hour run-time, the story itself felt drawn out.
Lack of on-screen chemistry: Helena Bonham Carter and Julian Sands, the actors who portrayed Lucy and George, did a good job with the material they were given. But when their characters were interacting together, I didn’t feel a strong sense of on-screen chemistry. A reason why is because of how infrequently George and Lucy crossed paths. Within the film’s first forty minutes, Lucy and George spend time together in about two or three scenes. Shortly after those first forty minutes, Lucy becomes engaged to Cecil, a character who a) was never brought up during the Florence trip and b)didn’t appear on screen until forty minutes into the film. Even after the engagement, George and Lucy’s time together isn’t consistent. This resulted in the missed opportunity to watch this relationship grow over time.
The title cards and on-screen text: At various moments in A Room with a View, title cards announced when a character was about to do something. On-screen text would sometimes replace these title cards. One example takes place when Lucy and several tourists travel to Florence’s countryside. Before their excursion, white text appeared on the screen, explaining what they were about to do. I was not a fan of this creative decision because these title cards and on-screen text told the audience what they could see or figure out for themselves. This creative decision was also not consistently featured in the movie.
My overall impression:
When it comes to A Room with a View’s style, this movie excels! It’s a pretty looking film, as the scenery, set design, and even Lucy’s wardrobe made the production pleasant to the eye. But when it comes to the substance, the film falls short. I didn’t find the story compelling, which is caused by the story itself being drawn out. I also did not sense strong on-screen chemistry between Helena Bonham Carter and Julian Sands. The more historical fiction/period drama media I consume, I find myself, more often than not, gravitating toward stories whose casts are smaller. This creative decision prevents the stories from competing for attention, as there are less characters to keep track of. Because A Room with a View contained an ensemble cast, there were so many ideas brought up and so few time to address it all. As the saying goes “time flies when you’re having fun”.
Overall score: 6.1 out of 10
Have you seen A Room with a View? Do you prefer movies with bigger or smaller casts? Please tell me in the comment section below!
Have fun on your travels!
4 thoughts on “Take 3: A Room with a View Review”
I saw this more than 20 years ago and don’t remember it well because I watched Tea with Mussolini the same day, which also has Maggie Smith and Judi Dench in it, and I have confused the two films in my mind ever since. I would like to see this again, though, as I absolutely love the book!
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Thanks for reading my review, Hamlette! If you do watch ‘A Room with a View’, I’d be interested in reading your thoughts on this film!
There are a lot of flaws in this film, the drawn-out story being one of them, but I adore it. I can’t help it. I think it has a lot to do with the scenery and Lucy’s gorgeous wardrobe, as you pointed out.
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Thank you for checking out my review, Silver Screenings! Glad you hear you enjoyed ‘A Room with a View’!