Gillian Anderson and The House of Mirth (2000) – by George Kaplan

Terence Davies directs Gillian Anderson
Terence Davies directs Gillian Anderson, House of Mirth

A few days ago in my rrrambling post on David Lean’s Great Expectations I made passing mention of Gillian Anderson’s performance as Lady Dedlock in the BBC version of Bleak House (expanded upon in my previous post, read it, if nothing else it will act as a soporific!), in the comments below the estimable Perfumed Dandy – whose weblog you really must frequent, if you don’t already Our Very Special Agent… Cuir de Lancome The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter | The Perfumed Dandy. – remarked that Ms Anderson was luminous in the role and has matured into a fine actress, and I can’t help but agree!

I would argue that Gillian Anderson had already proved herself a great actress in the first six seasons of The X-Files (and still very good even when bored in the final three) equally adept at high emotion, ironic wit, warmth, and comedy. However, in the show’s dying years and since she continually challenged and proved herself as an actress over and over — she unfortunately hasn’t had the cinematic roles that an actress of her talents deserves. But, television has given her the opportunities denied her, for the most part, in the movies. With her recent turns as Miss Havisham in Great Expectations and as a detective in the BBC thriller The Fall garnering good reviews. It’s only a pity that her natural humor, appealing goofiness, and flair for comedy haven’t been harnessed on screen since The X-Files hilarious comedic episodes such as War of the Coprophrages and Bad Blood. (No, Johnny English Reborn doesn’t count… Ouch!)

If there’s one Gillian Anderson movie that I could recommend, it’s Terence Davies’s version of Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth. A lustrously filmed, emotionally devastating story social hypocrisy and sexual iniquity. Ms Anderson has rarely looked more beautiful than here while her portrayal of a complex, impassioned, headstrong woman, achingly sympathetic as much because of her flaws as despite them is, to my mind, wonderful. The rest of the cast, including Eric Stoltz (rarely better), Dan Aykroyd (very good), Elizabeth McGovern (marvellous, I won’t make any disparaging remarks about Downton Abbey here!), Laura Linney (a viper), and Eleanor Bron (excellent), are all on fine form. If you require any more reason to see it then I should mention it has one of the most sensuous yet restrained kissing scenes in cinema history, one that is redolent of true passion. It really doesn’t make sense to me that as unique an actress as Ms Anderson is as underused in film when lesser performers are over-exposed, though we should be thankful that television sees her worth.

Ah, well, that’s the end of this doubtless fascinating post… 😉 May you all have a fine day and be having a swell start to 2014!
Regards, George

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  1. Heather in Arles
    January 12, 2014

    Oh I was so moved by this movie! I find it a rare example of when the movie touched me more than the book–and in the case of Wharton, that is saying something!!! This makes me allllmost want to see it again–alas, it made me too sad!

  2. Hal
    January 12, 2014

    Oh, Heather, I have exactly the same feeling about it, it is *devastating*! I shall have to write something that more than “allllmost” makes you want to see something again… 😉

  3. January 13, 2014

    Dearest George
    You are very, very correct.
    I had almost, most remissly, forgotten ‘The House of Mirth’, Wharton’s prose I must confess leaves me cold, but there is something about that detachment that can work well on screen and lends itself particularly to this kind of treatment/.
    You’ve inspired me to seek this out again.
    Thank you for these wonderful tributes to rather underrated actress, whose stage work is also worth a nod I should note.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  4. January 15, 2014

    Yes, I agree with this one. Have you seen her in Steve Coogan’s Tristram Shandy? The way the writers use her there is kind of indicative of the film industry’s use of her.

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