The Wings of the Dove

I’m reading the novel The Wings of the Dove with my friend Bill. We’ve been discussing novels in more or less chronological order. I’d never read a Henry James novel and I’m not enjoying this one so I thought if I saw the movie, I the plot would be clearer as I read.

I have not been won over. This story about Kate, a plotting middle class girl who falls in live with middle class Merton. Since the rich aunt who supports Kate financially won’t let her marry down, Kate manipulates Milly, a dying rich, American girl she meets and Merton. Her plan, which the wimpy Merton agrees to, is for her lover Merton to cosy up to Milly with the aim to getting into her will. Despicable, n’est pas?

The film stars Helena Bonham Carter, who’s moody and and sort of dark, as Kate. Elizabeth McGovern plays Milly’s companion Susie and Merton’s played by Linus Roche, who was an ADA on Law and Order for several seasons.

The film isn’t doesn’t go into each characters’ psychology as the novel tried to but the poor people weren’t that poor and their plot was doomed from the start. I just had no sympathy for Kate or Merton and very little for Milly, who was dying of some unspecified aliment and had little sense. It wasn’t clear to me whether she was an orphan. If her parents were living, I’d expect them to keep better tabs on their naive daughter. Susie is a fine companion, but had little sway over Milly.

The film was pretty, but the story itself was a non-starter for me. Watching the movie hasn’t spurred me to dig into the novel. I’ll continue to trudge through it.

The King’s Speech (from my archives)

Since I’d heard such high praise for The King’s Speech and I knew what it was about, I figured I’d enjoy this movie, but not be blown away. Well, it is a terrific movie so it does succeed in living up to high expectations.

As I knew, it’s the story of Prince (later King) Albert, whose speech impediment is a curse considering he’s a royal and even the second son needs to make speeches on occasion. The film closely tracks Bertie’s struggles and his relationship with a controversial, unorthodox speech therapist. During this era stronger stories and persons fill the history books: Prince Edward whose romance with Mrs. Simpson can easily fascinate and Winston Churchill are off to the side in this story, though in history they are front and center. As a history buff, I enjoyed seeing this small story told well. We get caught up in Bertie’s struggle and admire him for persevering. Lionel, his therapist, gets to push and prod royalty, which is like dancing in a mine field. He always respects Bertie, but knows that brutal honesty is needed for success with this patient.

The script is spare, very Aristotelean, I’d say as it focuses on the primary relationships and we root for Bertie to face his demons and disability. Helena Bonham-Carter plays Prince Albert’s wife with understatement and loyalty. Though I did wonder how they got together and how she saw past Bertie’s stutter when they first met. The only actor I didn’t like played Winston Churchill. Granted, that’s a hard role as Churchill had such a strong persona overacting is a real danger. Luckily, Churchill’s not on screen much.