To adapt a 600 page novel, whose richness is in its psychological construction, into a 140 minute film constructed upon spoken dialogue is an impossible task. I mean you can make the most marvelous film ever, but you cannot reproduce in this way one tenth, nor one hundredth part, of the essence of the novel. And although â??Portrait of a Ladyâ?? may be the best movie that could be made out of such difficult material, it is not marvelous, nor enchanted, nor poetic, and does not even get close to the original. Well, it is close in terms of the story, but not in its power. Jane Championâ??s â??Pianoâ?? in 1993 made her the most important female director to date, and eagerly everyone awaited her next project. The womanâ??s novel by Henry James was a bold choice, but one which seemed to suite her taste and obvious talent. Yet there were too many obstacles to surpass. Even if you ditch many side characters and side stories (such as Hentiettaâ??s or Warburtonâ??s), there is not enough time to convey the delicate emotional build-up that Henry James so skillfully constructed during the course of 500 pages. In an attempt to deliver the story as fast as possible, all of the early construction of Isabel Archer (Nicole Kidman), and her relation to the Touchetts was discarded, and the movie starts right of the bat with Warburtonâ??s proposal. Almost 2 hours into the movie, Kidman says to Ralph â??you are my best friendâ??, but they only had 2 or 3 scenes together before that, so that connection is not believable. This type of incongruences happens a lot in the film. â??Portrait of a Ladyâ?? is the story of Isabel Archer, an American poor relation of the wealthy Touchett family. When visiting, everyone becomes infatuated with her. Ralph, a slowly dying man, silently adores her, Warburton proposes and is refused (as was her American suitor Vigo Mortensen), and then old dying Touchett (John Gielgud), Ralphâ??s father, leaves her most of his money at his sonâ??s request. Free and rich, Isabel moves to Italy, and instigated by another supposed friend, Madame Merle (Barbara Hershey), falls in love with Gilbert Osmond (John Malkovich), a poor aristocrat with a daughter. This time she decides to marry. Years later, when that daughter herself wants to marry young Christian Bale against her fatherâ??s will, and trapped in a loveless marriage, Isabel strong personality finally yields, and she crumbles, aided by the impendent death of Ralph. â??Portrait of a Ladyâ?? is a battle of wills between the major characters, and how they ascend and fall victim of the games they play. Itâ??s the games that keep them alive, but itâ??s also the games that finally destroy them. The movie, as the novel, and rightly so, sees all this through Isabelâ??s perspective. But the novel explains to us why Isabel is like this, and why she makes the choices she makes. The movie doesnâ??t. Character development is missing, right from the start. And so her choices are forced on the audience, without falling in place with the character. Not even if you say â??woman will understand herâ??. No! Because of this, it is also hard to believe how every male loves her, because, at least on screen, she does nothing to justify it. And as every side character appears and disappears at will just to add a needed element to the plot at a given time, they are also artificial. It is strange, in the middle of all this, that the only person believable is Malkovich. Champion attempted, and rightly so, to add a few psychological elements of Isabelâ??s inner demons through the use of artistic slow motion scenes or dream sequences. These are fewer than there ought to be, but unfortunately most are there to shock and try to make the movie less, well, dialogue-boring, forcing the message of a modern womanâ??s movie to a 90s modern woman. Why make an open credit sequence with modern women in a garden discussing their kissing experiences? Why make Isabel have a foursome dream with all her lovers? Why make her trip abroad look like a 1920â??s silent picture? This is set in 100 years before silent pictures! Anyway, some of these might work (the foursome scene for example) but most scenes fail because they are just a lot of dialogue, said in the shortest time possible, without the proper pauses for emotion. Even if the dialogue is strong and emotional (it is), and even if the actors deliver it perfectly (they do), there is no time to sink it in, because there is a lot of story still the movie wants to cover, and so it pushes itself non-stop. All in all â??Portrait of a Ladyâ?? tries, and succeeds, to be faithful to the narrative of the novel, and that is an achievement. Furthermore set design, cinematography and camera work all excel. Yet most things are added artificially only because they need to be there, the characters are not developed, and the audience is forced to believe in feelings that have not grown in the picture, but only in the book. Hence this film is a nice complement to the book (come and see the major scenes acted by a lot of famous people!, and Kidmanâ??s very weird hair style!), but is nothing individually. It was too much to squeeze in so little time, and consequently the feeling was taken out of the story, although the actors do their best to keep it there (all except Mary-Louise Parker playing Henrietta â?? she is just plain bad!). And the 90s modern woman? Can she identify with Nicole? Probablyâ?¦ but not in this picture.