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The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)

tomatometer

No Score Yet...

Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 1
Fresh: 1 | Rotten: 0

audience

67

liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 6,726

My Rating

Movie Info

John Fowles' original novel The French Lieutenant's Woman was distinguished by a literary technique that involved telling a story of Victorian sexual and social oppression within the bounds of a 1970s viewpoint. How does one convey this time-frame dichotomy on film? The decision made by director Karel Reisz and Harold Pinter was to frame Fowles' basic plot within a "modern" context of their own making. While we watch as Sarah (Meryl Streep), a 19th-century Englishwoman ruined by an affair with a

R,

Drama, Romance, Art House & International

Harold Pinter

Sep 4, 2001

MGM Home Entertainment

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Cast

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All Critics (17) | Top Critics (3) | Fresh (12) | Rotten (3) | DVD (4)

A shallow, confusing and vexing film.

July 10, 2006 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Playing a dual (Oscar-nominated) role, Meryl Streep is much more convincing in the contemporay tale.

December 18, 2004 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

A gripping psychological study of the war between the sexes that asks the question: Are we happier, wiser, more liberated, than the Victorian characters in the story?

January 15, 2002 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

the film comes off as an academic exercise instead of a living, breathing testament to the ideas it presents.

November 13, 2001
Daily-Reviews

It may be a true "chick flick," but as far as those movies go, you could do a hell of a lot worse.

October 28, 2001 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

Characters don't talk to each other -- they talk to the camera

August 31, 2001 Full Review Source: Filmcritic.com
Filmcritic.com

Audience Reviews for The French Lieutenant's Woman

This film interweaves two two-character dramas: as adulterous actors film a melodrama about a 19th Century adulterous couple, they begin to develop their own off-the-set feelings.
As a fan of his stage work and the film The Last Tycoon, I was excited to see more of Harold Pinter's work, but The French Lieutenant's Woman conspicuously lacks Pinter's characteristic pregnant pauses and focus on subtext. Yes, there's is a short scene between Smithson and his servant when we're to understand that the latter is blackmailing the former, but it's hardly as rich as Pinter's stage work. My expectations notwithstanding, the script provides us with precious few compelling scenes. More importantly, for most of the film I was unsure about why these two stories were being juxtaposed. What is this film saying about relationships and adultery? Sometimes it works, sometimes not? It's destructive? Either way, there's not much to sink our teeth into.
Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep try their best to wring some meta-textual complexity out of the story, but whereas Roger Ebert sees depth in their performances - he states, "Everything they say and do has another level of meaning, because we know the 'real' relationship between the actors themselves" - I saw actors and characters divorced, separated, as though these were two films that happened to be cut together. Thus, what I think is true of the script is also true of the performances.
Overall, the film's attempt to become greater than the sum of its parts only leaves us confused.
February 2, 2011
hunterjt13
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Extremely well done, slow and deliberate unraveling of two intertwined love stories.
December 9, 2010
Julie

Super Reviewer

The two love stories that are the link in this film would have been very boring in their own right, but mix the two, the time differences, the character changes and this film becomes a paradox of itself. It's tough going and not particularly exciting, but with Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep it's easy to spot this as a performance driven film.
November 6, 2010
76Majikat

Super Reviewer

Meryl Streep does her best in a meandering film. The TV version apparently is shorter but I doubt that it does much to pick up the slow action in an otherwise dull period piece.
August 29, 2013
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • La Maitresse du lieutenant francais (FR)
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