May 15, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

Washington Square

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG
performer
Ben Chaplin, Albert Finney, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Genre
Romance, Drama, Historical

Washington Square is proof, if any were needed, that fidelity to the source isn’t necessarily the hallmark of a great adaptation. Director Agnieszka Holland and screenwriter Carol Doyle stick close to the text of perhaps the least cinematic writer in the Western canon, Henry James, to tell his highly internalized tale of a young girl torn between a charming but penniless suitor and her suspicious, controlling father. Leigh flutters and trembles, Finney glowers and bellows, Chaplin stands around looking pretty. You’re better off renting The Heiress, William Wyler’s 1949 version starring Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift; its departures from James — such as a more anguished final confrontation between Catherine and Morris — make it arguably less incisive but undeniably far more dramatic. C+

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