Lolita (1962) - Rotten Tomatoes

Lolita (1962)

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"How did they make a movie out of Lolita?" teased the print ads of this Stanley Kubrick production. The answer: by adding three years to the title character's age. The original Vladimir Nabokov novel caused no end of scandal by detailing the romance between a middle-aged intellectual and a 12-year-old nymphet. The affair is "cleansed" ever so slightly in the film by making Lolita a 15-year-old (portrayed by 16-year-old Sue Lyon). In adapting his novel to film, Nabokov downplayed the wicked satire and sensuality of the material, concentrating instead on the story's farcical aspects. James Mason plays professor Humbert Humbert, who while waiting to begin a teaching post in the United States rents a room from blowzy Shelley Winters. Winters immediately falls for the worldly Humbert, but he only has eyes for his landlady's nubile daughter Lolita. The professor goes so far as to marry Winters so that he can remain near to the object of his ardor. Turning up like a bad penny at every opportunity is smarmy TV writer Quilty (Peter Sellers), who seems inordinately interested in Humbert's behavior. When Winters happens to read Humbert's diary, she is so revolted by his lustful thoughts that she runs blindly into the street, where she is struck and killed by a car. Without telling Lolita that her mother is dead, Humbert packs her into the car and goes on a cross-country trip, dogged every inch of the way by a mysterious pursuer. Once she gets over the shock of her mother's death, Lolita is agreeable to inaugurating an affair with her stepfather (this is handled very, very discreetly, despite the slavering critical assessments of 1962). But when the girl begins discovering boys her own age, she drifts away from Humbert. One day, she leaves without warning. This is humiliation enough for Humbert; but when he discovers who her secret lover really is, the results are fatal. We are prepared for the ending because the film has been framed as a flashback; what we are not prepared for is Stanley Kubrick's adroit manipulation of our sympathies and expectations. An incredibly long film considering its subject matter, Lolita is never dull, nor does it ever stoop to the sensationalism prevalent in the film's ad campaign.
Rating:
NR
Genre:
Classics , Comedy , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:
MGM

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Cast

James Mason
as Prof. Humbert Humbert
Sue Lyon
as Lolita
Peter Sellers
as Clare Quilty
Shelley Winters
as Charlotte Haze
Marianne Stone
as Vivian Darkbloom
Diana Decker
as Jean Farlow
Jerry Stovin
as John Farlow
Suzanne Gibbs
as Mona Farlow
Shirley Douglas
as Mrs. Starch
Colin Maitland
as Charlie
Cec Linder
as Physician
Irvin Allen
as Hospital Attendant
Lois Maxwell
as Nurse Mary Lore
Isobel Lucas
as Haze Maid
Maxine Holden
as Hotel Receptionist
Marion Mathie
as Miss Lebone
James Dyrenforth
as Beale Senior
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Critic Reviews for Lolita

All Critics (41) | Top Critics (3)

Where Nabokov was witty, Kubrick is sometimes merely snide, but fine performances (particularly from Peter Sellers, as the ominous Clare Quilty) cover most of the rough spots.

Full Review… | May 8, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Far more satisfying than his later works (one hesitates to call them mere movies).

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

The picture has a rare power, a garbled but often moving push toward an off-beat communication.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
New York Times
Top Critic

An epically misbegotten, misguided adaptation...

Full Review… | November 28, 2014
Reel Film Reviews

As a Kubrick film... virtually everything it does well was done better in his filmography.

Full Review… | May 3, 2014
Antagony & Ecstasy

"How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?" With great difficulty!

Full Review… | July 2, 2012
Quickflix

Audience Reviews for Lolita

Kubrick at the top of his game with an all star team behind him delivers nothing less than quality in this Nabakov tale that skewers Americans and their tightly held preconceptions at every turn, nearly in every frame. James Mason is wunderbar and understated, but by no means all that the effort has to offer.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

½

Stanley Kubrick's Lolita is a very good film, but it is far from his best work. The film is well crafted, but Kubrick would steadily mature as a filmmaker, and Lolita is one of his films that tends to really broaded his scope and he is able to pull something quite interested. However, the idea here is quite simple, and Kubrick is a filmmaker that was always known for epic pictures, however Lolita tackles a taboo subject, and in doing so, he manages to break new ground in filmmaking, however at the same time it's not a standout work either. I really wanted to enjoy it, and somewhat did, however, it's not his best work. I guess here, the film worked more as an experiment for Stanley Kubrick, of which each film he made tended to be big, bold and risky, which was the case with all his films. Yet, they always were entertaining, brilliantly acted and uniquely directed. Lolita is good, but it's my least favorite of Kubrick's works. I'm not saying the film is awful, far from it, but for many, it's hard to get into, and to walk away from that truly memorable Stanley Kubrick viewing experience. In his later work, he would definitely hone his craft, and deliver some of cinema's finest pictures. As a whole, Lolita is not a film to be seen by viewers who are new to Kubrick. The film works well, and it's engaging from start to finish. But like I said, it's not Kubrick's best, as he would constantly top himself with future films. Lolita is nonetheless essential viewing if you enjoy his work.

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer

It feels more tame than I would have expected but Mason's performance is brilliant.

Graham Jones
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

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