Mary Poppins Returns
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All Critics (19)
| Top Critics (4)
| Fresh (18)
| Rotten (1)
| DVD (1)
With compassion, humor and detachment, James Ivory's superb film of E.M. Forster's "Maurice" takes us into the complacent, fixed world of Britain's privileged classes in the years immediately before World War I.
Wilby cracks the character's genteel surface, releasing bursts of fear, pride, and relief. His Maurice is neither martyr nor saint, radical only in his choice to pursue happiness.
It's woozy, unadulterated romance, an intoxicating tuxedo-ripper set against the elegant priggishness of England's post-Edwardian gentry.
A triumph of the Merchant Ivory aesthetic. The cast are gorgeous. The passion is polite. The conclusion is a little surprising. Well worth reviving.
This elegant, heart-rending romance is now ripe for the reclaiming as a gay landmark.
Maurice is a candid, lucid, passionate film.
What's really revolutionary about this film is the way Ivory photographs male bodies in what were, by the standards of mainstream cinema at the time, quite explicit sex scenes.
A sumptuous film, whose beauty and importance has only increased with age. The very definition of a must-see.
It's as handsomely mounted as any of its more beloved brethren, especially in a shiny new 4k restoration, but it's no mystery why it was largely ignored back in the day.
A beautifully photographed film with top-drawer performances from a fine cast.
ultimately it keeps us engaged and reasonably entertained
Probably Merchant-Ivory's best film.
So bored. A story of a young man trying to understand his sexuality, extremely boring but otherwise it has great costumes and a young Hugh Grant.
James Ivory was so well-known for outrageously British and ultimately somewhat inconsequential period dramas, so I wouldn't be too surprised if he made a biopic about that one Bishop of London of the very late 1100s who no one really remembers because of his not doing much interesting, but thankfully, there's a whole lot more juice to the story in this film, "Britback Mountain". Oh yeah, I don't know what the bigger stretch is: Hugh Grant being in a super British period drama early on in his career or James Wilby playing gay. I know Wilby isn't really gay, but he's really big into theatre and TV, both of which are ruled by the gays, unless, of course, those two entertainment formats really are as different as they say in the UK. I only have BBC America to work with over here, and all they have are documentaries and reality shows that I'd imagine are even more boring than their American brethren, dramas I never have time for, comedies that are too weakly filmed for me to be all that invested, way too many American films, and some stuff by the very fabulous Graham Norton that I actually do watch here and there, so as far as I know, the Middle Eastern visitors haven't driven the gays out of UK entertainment yet. Either way, the point is that James Wilby's career ended up being not as strong as Hugh Grant's, which is pretty depressing, especially when you consider that Wilby is the leading title character in this film. Well, in all fairness, this was a particularly dirt-cheap Merchant Ivory period piece, and it still kind of underperformed at the box office, but hey, at least the critics liked it, and that really does count in the UK, while in the US, you need to either have plenty of money or be black, gay, Hispanic, or something else that the liberals deem marketable in order to meet some degree of success in the entertainment industry. As gay as this film is, it's too white to appeal to modern American mainstream audiences, and it doesn't help that, by its own right, the flick has plenty of problems.
I joked about how James Ivory has a taste for somewhat inconsequential dramas, but quite frankly, as juicy as this film is in plenty of areas, there's not much to this plot, whose characters are often bland, and whose situations are a bit too minimalist for their own good, as well as kind of derivative in some ways. On top of there being not much to this plot, there's only so much that's refreshing about this plot, which meanders its way down a familiar path, and one that makes the meandering all the more severe by being pretty lengthy. With all of my talk about how minimalist this subject matter is in plenty of areas, the final product comes out running a, for it, whopping 140 minutes, and while such lengthiness is backed by thoughtful material enough to not be grating, it is simply unnecessary, being much too often achieved through fat around the edges that, before you know it, gets to be repetitious, maybe even unfocused. The film takes too long to tell a thin story, and that, as you can probably imagine, leads to aimlessness, for although there are enough layers to the characters who drive this drama for you to get a fair sense of progression, it's hard to see where storytelling is heading, regardless of the conventionalism to this narrative, and that would be perfectly fine and all if director James Ivory, as atmospheric storyteller, didn't keep faithful to the meandering of his and Kit-Hesketh-Harvey's written storytelling. Ivory may be an American man, but good golly, Miss Molly, he is quite the British filmmaker, and he has a tendency to make good and sure that you don't forget it by stuffing storytelling up with bland dryness, something that can, of course, be found here, where the thoughtfulness in Ivory's storytelling has its dramatically effective moments, but generally simply meditates on the thinness of this subject matter's intrigue, leaving blandness to ensue, often in the form of dullness, and perhaps even more often with a certain sense of stuffiness that makes this drama to feel self-congratulatory, in spite of its shortcomings. I can't say that I blame this film for feel proud of itself, because there are plenty of high points in this film, so much so that the final product almost overcomes its shortcomings and stands a truly rewarding, but sadly, the natural thinness to this subject matter is too great to ignore, especially when backed by a meandering story structure and bland atmosphere that slow momentum down to a crawl. Still, a crawl is some form of progression, and sure enough, while this film leaves much to be desired, it perseveres as decent, with commendable moments, even in production value.
Working with a budget that is, in USD, only $2.6 million, art directors Peter James and Brian Savegar don't have a whole lot of opportunities to flesh out this period piece's look, thus the final product doesn't exactly excel at production value, but it does impress, with production designer Brian Ackland-Snow and costume designers Jenny Beavan, John Bright and William Pierce being thoughtful enough in their money spending to restore early 20th century England in a fashion that, while minimalist, is both attractive and convincing enough to immerse you. There's a tastefulness to this film's production value that impresses, even if the designs themselves aren't all that outstanding, but if there is something that is just as, if not more tasteful, as well as consistently outstanding, then it is this film's classical soundtrack, whose original touches are courtesy Richard Robbins, and which is, of course, inconsistently used in this often quiet art piece, yet proves to be ultimately very much worthy of patience, being rich with the brilliant and soulful musicality that is distinctly classical, as well as complimentary to both the entertainment value and resonance of this film. If there is a moving moment in this film, then it most likely cannot stand with as much sturdiness as it does without the support of this excellent, thoroughly tasteful soundtrack, which captures much heart when it is, in fact, played up, as surely as the production value of the film captures this film's setting, thus leaving you with an artistically proficient film that can, of course, not be entirely powered by its artistic value. At the core of this prettied up project is substance that is pretty thin in plenty of places, but still worthy, as reflected by undeniable highlights in Kit-Hesketh-Harvey's and James Ivory's undercookd and meandering script, whose wit is often effectively charming, if not amusing, and whose characterization is just fleshed out enough for you to get a feel for the characters and their struggles. There's enough heart to this film's writing for you to catch glimpses at relatively considerable potential for compellingness, made all that clearer by moments in which a directing Ivory's tender and thoughtful meditations prove to be effective, so even though there are plenty of disengaging areas to this film, when the hits come, they're pretty commendable, though perhaps mostly because they're typically anchored by strong lead performances. If there is any meat to this character drama, then it is mostly likely found within the acting material for leads James Wilby and Hugh Grant, both of whom were newcomers at the time and could have fallen short, but really deliver, not just on effective chemistry, but by their own individual rights, with Grant being convincing as a questioning homosexual trying to run away from his true identity, while Wilby compels, often with strong emotional power, in his fearless portrayal of a gay man who fears, not only that his secret may be revealed, but that he will lose the man he holds so very dear. The commitment that Wilby and Grant grace their performances with is nothing short of compelling, and considering that this is a character drama, such compellingness goes a particularly long way, not exactly to where the final product triumphs over underwhelmingness, but decidedly to where the acting stands alongside the inspired moments in storytelling as a key factor in bringing the final product to a generally pretty engaging level.
Bottom line, the film's story concept is familiar and bland in some spots, and much too thin in plenty of spots, and you have plenty of time to think about this, thanks to aimless dragging in storytelling that is made all the more noticeable by atmospheric dryness, thus making for a bland flick, but one that is not without plenty of high points, firmly established enough through clever art direction, an outstanding classical soundtrack, inspired areas in writing, tenderly effective areas in direction and compelling commitment to the performances and chemistry between leads James Wilby and Hugh Grant for James Ivory's "Maurice" to stand as an improvable, but ultimately endearing drama about a struggle to keep a forbidden romance secret, yet alive.
2.75/5 - Decent
Is being gay really this boring?
This is a Gay 101 movie -- Everyone should see -- The love was real, and it is a true story --
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