Mrs. Dalloway (1997)
Directed by Marleen Gorris
Cast: Vanessa Redgrave, Natascha McElhone, Rupert Graves, Michael Kitchen, Alan Cox, Lena Headey, Amelia Bullmore, Sarah Badel, Oliver Ford Davies, Katie Carr, John Standing, Robert Hardy, Margaret Tyzack, Phyllis Calvert.
1997 97 minutes
Rated: (for brief nudity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, October 10, 1998.
I've never really enjoyed period pieces because, most of the time, I don't think they are done very well. Usually, they seem to lack the urgency that they desperately need so that they become interesting. In "Mrs. Dalloway," unfortnately, there is no such luck.
At the start of "Mrs. Dalloway," which is set over a period of one day in 1923, the title character (Vanessa Redgrave), an aging, recently divorced woman living in England, is preparing for a party that she will be holding that night. Throughout the day, she reflects back to the life she once knew when she was a young woman (portrayed by Natascha McElhone), and had the chance to marry a spontaneous, loving man (Rupert Graves), but chose instead to play it safe with an uncaring beau.
I rented "Mrs. Dalloway" basically because I thought it might be interesting, since it is set during a 24-hour period, but what I didn't count on was for it to be constantly distracting. The film switches countless times from 1923 to when she was younger, to the point that it started to feel muddled and painfully episodic. By having the story cut away so often to other things (and a few subplots I haven't mentioned), I could never get caught up in Mrs. Dalloway's ultimate search for happiness. And the way that another story involving a shell-shocked WWI soldier is interwined with the main one felt convoluted and obvious.
The performances in "Mrs. Dalloway" are not to be faulted. Redgrave is believable as Mrs. Dalloway, and she looks startlingly like McElhone, who plays her in the flashbacks. Another performance I admired, but who was underused, was Katie Carr, as Redgrave's young daughter.
Since the structuring of the story was needlessly drawn out and unnecessary, I didn't grow to care about any of the characters, and at the end, when "Mrs. Dalloway," attempts to be moving, it left me cold.
© 1998 by Dustin Putman