Portrait of a Lady, The

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +2 1/2

Content: +2

Those who enjoy public television's Masterpiece Theater will feel right at home watching this feature film based on Henry James' novel. Set in the 1800s, it's the story of Isabel Archer (Nicole Kidman), a young American woman who has come to England to visit her ailing uncle. Because his son, Isabel's cousin Ralph (Martin Donovan), is suffering from consumption, Ralph convinces his father to leave his American cousin a sizable inheritance. Stifled by the formal, rigid English lifestyle, free-spirited Isabel longs for excitement and romance. After rejecting three very eligible bachelors, she is befriended by Madame Serena Merle (Barbara Hershey), a seemingly wealthy Italian widow. Through her, Isabel meets Osmond (John Malkovich), a rather mysterious older man, on a visit to Florence, Italy. The unsuspecting Isabel falls in love with Osmond, unaware of the scheme he and Serena have carefully orchestrated in order to gain control of her fortune. Isabel soon discovers she is trapped in a loveless marriage to a cruel, insensitive stranger. The first-rate cast also includes Mary-Louise Parker and Shelley Winters in supporting roles. The Portrait of a Lady's intrigue and romance will appeal primarily to women, although its 150 minutes is about 30 minutes too long.

The adult subject matter will bore children, but the film has very little offensive material. Isabel fantasizes about being with her three suitors, who are all caressing her in one brief scene. Later she imagines herself with Osmond in a sensual scene that includes brief breast nudity and passionate embraces. These incidents were probably included to illustrate Isabel's passionate nature, but could have easily been omitted. Although Osmond slaps and trips his wife during an angry confrontation, that violence is neither graphic nor gratuitous. One regular profanity is spoken, but the film has no obscenities. If the film has one message, it's "be careful what you ask for - you may get it." Isabel's intelligence and unusual independence turn to mush when it comes to choosing a life mate. So eager for excitement, she throws caution to the wind by marrying someone she knows nothing about. Her other suitors' loyalty and friendship never waiver even though she spurns them. Because of the sexual fantasy scenes and one profanity, The Portrait of a Lady can be recommended only for mature audiences.

Preview Reviewer: Mary Draughon
Gramercy Pictures, 9247 Alden Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: None

Profanity: Once -- Regular (J)

Violence: Once -- Moderate (man slaps and trips wife)

Sex: None

Nudity: Once (brief breast nudity in fantasy scene)

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Few times (woman fantasizes about men caressing her)

Drugs: Some social drinking

Other: None

Running Time: 150 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

Click HERE for a PRINTER-FRIENDLY version of this review.