The Lion in Winter - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Lion in Winter Reviews

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September 29, 2014
gr8 performances here
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
August 28, 2014
"In the winter, the mighty winter, the lion sleeps around!" Forget adultery, because there's also sibling rivalry, political unrest, family dysfunction, and other such junk to make this just about as stereotypical as a politically-charged drama set during 12th-century England can get. Naturally, it scored the Golden Globe for Best Drama, because from the mid to late '60s, the Globes were really getting into films like these, though not quite as much as Peter O'Toole. Shoot, I don't know if O'Toole was so much into politically-charged dramas set during 12th-century England, as much as he was just interested in Henry II, because, seriously, this is his second time playing the cat, and this film isn't even an official sequel to "Becket". He should have run through all of the Henrys and worked his way to Henry VIII, so that he could get a couple wives who were better-looking than Katharine Hepburn. No, Hepburn didn't look too shabby, but she was a little more masculine than O'Toole's character in this film, although I might just be thinking of the "Becket" Henry II who kept wining about missing his boyfriend... who was not played by Katharine Hepburn. Well, there is still plenty of saucy drama going on here, and it makes for quite the good movie, whose familiarity doesn't exactly end with O'Toole's role.

By nature of being a dialogue-driven period epic, this film is unique, but even then, you got plenty of this formula in "A Man For All Seasons" and "Becket", alone, and even though this film handles the formula better than, at the very least, the former, its familiarity as a should-be refreshing political and family drama makes it really difficult to ignore the other familiar aspects of this sort of subject matter. Still, it would be nice to grow more accustomed to the characters focused on in this film, at least enough to embrace them better, because even though the rich characterization and acting are there, they back morally problematic roles which compliment somewhat weighty histrionics as they do edgy themes. Set in a romantic time and a notoriously scandalous kingdom, and first interpreted in a stage drama, this subject matter is defined by its melodrama, but it's sometimes hard to embrace it, even in the context of this film, and whether that be because the characters are so questionable, or simple because the histrionics are occasionally too extreme, the film treks an almost contrived path, and a touch too steadily. The dialogue is sharp, and I don't know how much of it I would be willing to expend, but considering that it is the driving force of this 134-minute-long pseudo-epic, the final product gets to be a bit repetitious, and is ultimately way too blasted long, occasionally to where even the inspired momentum finds difficulty in securing dramatic momentum. The film is fairly entertaining in its flair, and certainly compelling in its sophistication, but it is a slowly paced affair that is sometimes too slow, resulting in bland, if not dull spots which challenge your attention in a narrative that, even in concept, proves to be a bit of a challenge to your investment. What might threaten this film as much as anything is its natural shortcomings as a non-epic of a political and family drama which is revolved around dialogue over action, and around characters who are intentionally problematic, but problematic nonetheless, limiting bite in concept which is further softened by elements of convention, melodrama and dragging. The final product is pretty flawed, and could have succumb to underwhelmingness, but what it does right it does so well that it very decidedly rewards, as a bitingly clever and dramatically juicy affair which immerses, with the help of solid art direction.

An intimate period melodrama, this film relies about as much on its setting as it does on its dialogue, thus, Peter Murton and the uncredited Lee Poll are meticulous in their crafting a recreation of the royal environment of 12th century England which is handsome and immersive in its distinctiveness, with a convincingness that is the first step towards selling this story. The subject matter's minimalism and melodramatics go a little too intensely stressed by draggy and, in other ways, somewhat overblown storytelling, and on top of all of that, most of the roles intimately focused upon are a little too flawed to be fully embraced, but as a study on the political and personal affairs of a dysfunction royal family, this story is very intriguing in its subtle layers and sophistication. Adapting his own play, screenwriter James Goldman does a lot of justice to the layering and intelligence, keeping color going, in spite of an overt reliance on chit-chat, with outstanding dialogue whose humor biting, and whose expository depth manages to do a plenty rich and organic job of fleshing out dynamic layers and rich characters, the backs of which might serve as a vehicle for dramatic resonance, should inspired direction be on board. Anthony Harvey, as director, delivers on some subdued dry spells, but manages to utilize tight scene structuring, combined with snappy writing, to establish adequate entertainment value, while plays on anything from John Barry's powerful, but underused score work, to deafening sobriety pierce with dramatic tension. At the very least, the sophistication of Harvey's storytelling is so respectable that one has be endeared towards the director's improvable, but tasteful efforts, which compel consistently in their engrossing you into the lives of richly drawn and even more richly portrayed characters. Most everyone has his or her time to shine, but not one shines quite like the leads, with Katharine Hepburn being intriguing and sometimes moving in her proper, yet humanly vulnerable portrayal of an intellectual and disrespected queen seeking some form of liberation from oppression, while Peter O'Toole once again nails Henry II's intensity as an ambitious king of great pride and great folly, whose gradual thickening shall emphasize his mortality. These and plenty of other major characters are a little sleazy, and it's hard to get invested in roles like that, especially when only so much acting material is offered, but if nuanced characterization doesn't make the leads enthralling, then their strong portrayals do, carrying an intimate drama whose aesthetic grace and sophisticated storytelling secure the reward value of this subtle, but striking affair.

Once winter has passed, the resonance of the film is a little chilled by conventions, questionable characters, melodramatics, often bland dragging, and, of course, natural shortcomings to a minimalist, yet promising story, whose value is complimented enough by immersive art direction, sharp writing, sophisticated direction and nuanced performances - especially from Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn - for Anthony Harvey's "The Lion in Winter" to stand as a subtly, but surely rewarding and intimate study on the personal affairs and conflicts of 12th-century English royals.

3/5 - Good
August 27, 2014
An exceptional period piece; it puts forth an effort and engages the audiences.
July 24, 2014
More plotting and betrayal than Game of Thrones, somehow.
March 5, 2014
Talk about a Dysfunctional Family, these Monarchs Hate each other in this Must See Movie, if you Love History, as I do.This All Star Cast each holds their own in this True Story of Greed & Power at it'd "Fighting Dirty" Best.
February 25, 2014
Wow just brilliant! Can't believe I've never seen this before. Amazing acting and script! Top notch all the way!
jjnxn
Super Reviewer
½ February 16, 2014
wonderful war of words among masters.
February 15, 2014
Dazzling dialogue and the greatest performance in both O'Toole's and Hepburn's careers make this movie a classic. The complexity of the character's and their relationships is the product of wonderful writing.Anthony Harvey catches the emotion like no other in his wonderful direction and John Barry's riveting score.
February 13, 2014
The Lion in Winter attracted me solely on the basis of Peter O'Toole's acting talents, and essentially that is what kept me entertained all the way through.

The Lion in Winter had a Shakespearian feel to it, yet it transcended many of the usual story issues by having a fine touch of charming humour to go with it as it unveils its story about King Henry II and his challenges in life. It's like Shakespeare, but it has 3 elements that elevate it above Shakespearian cinema. One is that it has humour which is more obvious without having to research it for hours on end to find one joke, and yet the humour is subtle and effective. Another is that it's written in a comprehendible language with a strong script. And thirdly is that it doesn't completely suck. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I hate Shakespeare. But I didn't hate The Lion in Winter as it took the good elements of Shakespearian cinema and left the bad, save from a lot of talking and a rather slow pace.
The production design in The Lion in Winter is spot on as it makes the plot thoroughly convincing of the story's timeframe and setting, as do the costumes.
And the cinematography is just excellent as it constantly manages to keep everything in perspective without too much movement or editing. Plus the locations The Lion in Winter is shot on prove beneficial.
The Lion in Winter receives thoroughly strong direction from Anthony Harvey, and under it the cast all manage to succeed and make an impact.

Peter O'Toole is incredibly ferociously strong in The Lion in Winter and it's undoubtably one of his greatest performances. The power in his performance is laden with the kind of strength that Shakespearian actors could only dream about, because Peter O'Toole is so fierce and so powerful without going over the top that his intimidation as an actor has honestly never been stronger than it is in The Lion in Winter. His performance is so dominating that it's ridiculous that he wouldn't win the Academy Award for Best Actor, just as it is ridiculous that he was nominated for 8 in his lifetime without ever winning. Nevertheless he gives the greatest performance of the film and makes The Lion in Winter an unforgettable experience.
I'd say that Katharine Hepburn gives one of her finest performances, but considering that practically every performance of hers is one of her best, it's safe to say that her performance in The Lion in Winter is terrific. She uses her same talented charisma as an actress and skill for confident line delivery that she always uses to charm audiences into giving her four Academy Awards, with The Lion in Winter being the third of them. Her chemistry with Peter O'Toole was also exceptional, since there was a real marital spirit to what they were conveying, and her character development as she gradually made more of an impact standing up to King Henry II as the story went on.

Anthony Hopkins also gives one of the best supporting performances from early on in his career. He shows off the same dramatic passion and character dedication that would later win him an Academy Award and earn him such a respectful reputation. His charisma is strong and his talent at creating chemistry with other actors is rich. Anthony Hopkins is great to see working under Peter O'Toole as they are two of cinema's most celebrated male actors, and seeing them in the same film is quite the experience.
Timothy Dalton supplies some strong talents from earlier on in his film career as well, and John Castle and Nigel Terry also did a fine job.

So The Lion in Winter is an incredibly well acted and visually strong story which has most of the good Shakespearian cinematic elements and few of the bad ones.
January 23, 2014
Brilliant acting! Hepburn at her best!
½ January 12, 2014
Wow. It's been a while since I've seen a film acted so superbly by everyone involved. How Peter O'Toole lost the Oscar to Cliff "Original Uncle Ben" Robertson is beyond me. He's an imposing force of nature here. At least Katharine Hepburn wasn't robbed, earning her 3rd Oscar (and 2nd in a row!). Watching the 2 of them banter back and forth is an absolute delight. The scorn and vile remarks that drip from each tongue just spit acid and hate, yet you see how there's something there that keeps them from truly destroying each other. Also shocking is just how funny some of the dialogue is here, especially from a film that's nearly 45yrs old. Add to that Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton in their first major screen roles, and you've got a spectacular cast who are all on fine form. What shocks me most about this, is that John Castle, as middle son Geoffrey didn't end up a bigger star. His scheming and sly behaviour and demeanor are just a blast to watch. You think you had a bad Christmas with the family recently? Ask Henry II how his was. Essential for anyone who says they are a film buff, or who actually likes great acting.
December 28, 2013
"The Lion in Winter" has a fantastic cast headlined by the immortal Peter O'Toole as King Henry II, Katharine Hepburn plays his wife Eleanor, and Anthony Hopkins (his film debut) as Richard, one of Henry's three sons. Henry is fifty and all three want to inherit his throne, they all including his creepy wife devour each other on Christmas. I couldn't help thinking of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" while viewing this film, it can be considered a lesser, unintentional response to Mike Nichols' work. With the exception of one dialogue, this is one of the most unpredictable films I've seen; it's a war of words, a family drama set in a kingdom. Peter O'Toole shines most brightly; the scene where he is with King Philip II of France to discuss matters is not only the best of the movie, but showcases O'Toole's monstrous acting prowess to its peak and further. I don't think I really understood the point and intentions of its characters, the plot consists of a twist after a twist; it was really hard for me to distinguish humor from seriousness, so I think it's flawed. Maybe it's a better film than I am giving credit for, but then I am reminded of specific scenes where dramatic dialogues feel empty, sometimes I am put off by it, it seems like a frail exercise in who can say the most cleverly insulting sentence to another. I can't put this film all together in my head, and maybe this was the intention, I did enjoy it very much. It's an actor's delight.
November 30, 2013
MUY BIEN ACTUADA QUE BUEN GUION ESTUPENDA
Super Reviewer
November 26, 2013
Peter O'Toole breathes life into Henry II. The intrigue around the palace is worthy of an entire season of Game of Thrones. This story is real although one suspects that Henry II was less of a lion than O'Toole.
½ October 12, 2013
Interesting for historical reasons and the performances were very good but a difficult watch if you don't like Katerine Hepburn and Peter O'Toole, like me. It is like a medievil soap opera and can get a bit tedious. I watched this as it is Johnny Rottens favorite film, a tad surprising.
October 2, 2013
Some may find this movie to be pointless, but overall it's a great character study and voices feelings many of us have but never make known. I'm not sure of the accuracy concerning Prince Richard in this story, but it's a subject that the makers of this movie should have been careful with, especially if the allegation in untrue.
September 26, 2013
One of my favorite movies of all time. Katharine Hepburn is superb.
August 15, 2013
Peter O'Toole's second outing playing Henry II (after Becket). The film's origins as a stage play show through, but in a positive way, with powerful dialogue making up for the fairly static stagings. O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn are outstanding as the embattled King and the estranged Queen Eleanor and there is also strong support from Anthony Hopkins as a less than lionhearted future Richard Coeur De Lion and Timothy Dalton as his venal former lover, Phillip II of France.
August 5, 2013
Depicting the story of the haunting late years of Henry II, The Lion in Winter features brilliant confrontations between Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins and the remaining cast. Despite the historical inaccuracy of the film, the bloody origin and aftermath are all facts easily forgotten nowadays, especially for the non-British people who know few about history. Despite the excellent performance from the cast, the confrontation, provocation and revelation are just too tiresome and unbearable to watch and recall.
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