If the name of Merchant Ivory Productions doesn’t immediately conjure up images of a somewhat stuffy British Edwardian period piece, filled with proper etiquette and manners befitting that of a young socialite, then you most likely simply weren’t aware of the production company behind this type of film. Suffice it to say, you’ve either seen a film like this or at the very least heard of a film like this, so you might as well go right to the top and give a look see at the pinnacle of the genre. A Room with a View is a James Ivory directing of an Ismael Merchant production (hence, Merchant Ivory) that features one of the most accomplished casts I’ve seen in a British production. Truly, these were greater times, both the film itself and when the film was made.
The film is a grand view of aristocracy and bourgeoisie the likes of which is rarely found outside TvTropes. Really, the whole affair is everything the period piece/British upper class genre is made out to be, right down to the costume design and the sophisticated language and diction. The production value spares no expense here to place us firmly in the mindset of early 20th century Europe, in particular the Florence region of Italy and of course England itself, and the cinematography is equally grandiose to further the depiction of the times. Rounding out the cast is a veritable who’s who of well-known British actors and actresses; Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Helena Bonham Carter, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Denholm Elliot are but a few of the names to be found here, and all do a wonderful job, especially Day-Lewis who it seems never does anything less than exemplary work; he is hardly recognizable.
I can definitely see how some people wouldn’t be able to stand a film like this; it is everything it is made out to be, and many may find it too thick and stifling in its adherence to its values. For what it’s worth, I was able to accept this and move past it, and I found the film to be otherwise enjoyable, particularly when I focused on the performances. The film has a lot going for it, really, and it seems the sort of piece that would garner a number of Oscar noms for costume design and art direction (which it did, and won both) among others, but it’s just way too period piece-y to warrant a wide recommendation. If you don’t mind the extreme example of British sensibility, this is definitely one to check out; otherwise, you might have to wade your way through this one.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10