I recently watched The Magnificent Ambersons last week. This 2002 A&E movie was based on Orson Welles’ original screenplay, which in turned was based on Booth Tarkington’s 1919 Pulitzer Prize winning novel. I read the novel for my Milwaukee Book Club a few years ago and loved it. It is number 99 on the Modern Library’s top 100 books. It is on this list as it is a magnificent novel of the change of society at the turn of the century with the invention of the automobile.
George Miniver is the spoiled grandson of the rich ruling Amberson family of a small Midwestern town. He falls in love with Lucy Morgan, the daughter of an automobile inventor. He soon learns that Lucy’s father, Eugene, once had a relationship with his mother in the past and also has future plans for his widowed mother. George does everything he can to prevent this, including sacrificing his own future happiness. It is a truly tragic story.
The movie didn’t give justice to the themes of the novel. I sometimes felt I would have been lost if I wouldn’t have read the novel previously. This movie had a fantastic cast including James Cromwell as Major Amberson, Madeleine Stowe as Isabelle Miniver, and Bruce Greenwood as Eugene Morgan. I have loved Jonathon Rhys Meyer in most of the films I have seen him in, but his performance in this movie is quite terrible. He throws temper tantrums and way overacts in most scenes without showing us any sort of conflict or reason to like his character. Jennifer Tilly is also miscast as Aunt Fanny Miniver.
Sadly, this could have been an excellent film. I just DVR’d the 1942 Orson Welles’ classic. I can’t wait to watch it and compare. I know it’s not Welles’ final cut (the studio took out an additional 40 minutes), but I’m hoping Joseph Cotton gives a good performance as George.