House of Mirth

Bomb Rating: 

Either the English language has changed dramatically since Edith Wharton penned the book on which this movie is based, or else Edith was simply smashed out of her mind on rum. When I look up the word "mirth," it's defined as "pleasure or joy." If this film is any indication, Wharton thought the word meant "as depressing as having William Howard Taft sit on my face."

And don't give me any crap for not knowing what Wharton was getting at. Indeed, the title comes from a passage in Ecclesiates that states "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth." What in the hell does that mean? Wise people mourn and fools celebrate? For Christ's sake, if I know there's a plague coming around the corner, I take my parties where I can get them. And as we all know, Jesus could do many things, but partying down was not one of them.

Lily Bart (Gillian Anderson) feels pretty much the same way. Though she's living off her rich aunt and benefiting from the generosity of her rich friends, she lives life as though she hasn't a care in the world. And why should she? She's rich. The world is her oyster.

Well, things do start going wrong, and they go wrong in a big way. Lily's aunt dies and cuts her out of the will for gambling. Gus Trenor (Dan Aykroyd) offers Lily some money in exchange for some nookie, and Sim Rosedale (Anthony LaPaglia) does the same. Meanwhile, Lily continually thwarts the affections of Lawrence Selden (Eric Stoltz), though she obviously loves him. When she's embarrassed in public by Bertha Dorset (Laura Linney), the upper crust class of her life has crumbled completely and she finds herself licking bits of apple off the bottom of the rusty pan.

And what's the tragedy of all this? Lily has to get a job. You know, excuse me for not shedding tears when some upper class failure has to get a job. How awful for her. What's her big revelation? "I'm useless," she cries. Aside from making the rounds at country clubs across the country, I don't see much use for this film.

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