There are certain roles in this world that should be played only by Vanessa Redgrave, and Clarissa Dalloway is one of them.
"Mrs. Dalloway" is a gentle triumph. Eileen Atkins knew precisely how she wanted to bring Virginia Woolf's novel to the screen. Facing the challenge of multiple time frames, she and director Marleen Gorris have intertwined past and present so expertly that the characters become the complex sum of their experiences.
Atkins and Gorris have set a marvelous cast of actors in motion around the luminous presence of Vanessa Redgrave, who moves among them quietly and majestically, an elegant vision with a core of corrosive self-doubt. In post-World War I London, a woman who wanted to make her presence felt could do it only through manipulation of her man. Mrs. Dalloway felt no such need.
Toward the end of this beautiful movie, as three old friends revisit their memories of each other, we realize they are nearly exactly who they were when they were young. If life experience has molded them, integrity of character has kept them whole. It is a striking moment for an audience that has come to care greatly about Clarissa Dalloway (Vanessa Redgrave), Peter Walsh (Michael Kitchen), and Sally Seaton (Sarah Badel).
Through their memories, we have watched them share their young years on the green lawns of England's mansions. Peter Walsh adored Clarissa Dalloway, but Clarissa was afraid to follow him into an uncertain world. She chose instead to marry Richard Dalloway (John Standing), a man Peter described as "an unimaginative, dull fool who will keep you in a perfect prison stuffed with flowers." Clarissa spends the rest of her good life wondering why she is fearful.
Today Mrs. Dalloway is giving a party. As clearly as Peter sees the party as a sea of fatuous faces mumbling the gossipy cruelties of polite society, Mrs. Dalloway sees something else. She wants to "give everyone one night when the women are beautiful, the men are handsome, and everyone would have such a beautiful time." She is a romantic, and real people, her guests, tarnish her dream.
As they reunite, Clarissa, Peter, and Sally are just who they were. The spirited Sally, who was going to change the world, may be married and settled, but her spirit and her perceptiveness are undiminished. Peter, who has never quite pulled life together, is still touchingly open as he talks to his two old friends. Clarissa, trying always to make everything right for everyone, is tinged with a wistfulness borne of knowing she is not all she could have been. "Why didn't she marry me, Sally?" Peter asks. Knowing exactly, Sally replies, "She was afraid; maybe she needed someone who found life simple."
This was a time when men walked the streets in top hats and wore fresh carnations in the buttonholes of their morning coats. Mrs. Dalloway strolls among them, bearing her parasol elegantly and her worries silently. There are certain roles in this world that should be played only by Vanessa Redgrave, and Clarissa Dalloway is one of them.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 497
Studio : First Look Pictures
Rating : PG-13
Running Time: 1h37m
Copyright (c) Illusion
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