The Portrait of a Lady

 (258)6.22 h 24 min1997X-RayPG-13
The story of a young American woman who is taken to Europe by her aunt after the death of her family and challenges the confines of her destiny on the hermetically closed American expatriate circuit in late 19th century Europe.
Nicole KidmanJohn MalkovichBarbara Hershey
English [CC]
Audio languages

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Supporting actors
Mary-Loiuse ParkerMartin DonovanShelley WintersRichard E. GrantShelley DuvallChristian BaleViggo Mortensen
Steve GolinMonty Montgomery
PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
Content advisory
Drug usefoul languagesexual contentviolence
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3.3 out of 5 stars

258 global ratings

  1. 41% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 12% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 5% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 17% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 25% of reviews have 1 stars

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Top reviews from the United States

Caryl WynterReviewed in the United States on July 3, 2019
5.0 out of 5 starsStill mesmerizing after all these years
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Slow but mesmerizing. Casting, direction, costuming, cinematography, settings, editing, all preternaturally are superb. But if you don't accept the slow pace of Henry James novels or accept the way historical context shapes people's lives and personalities, you won't like this. Of all the adaptations of Henry James work, this the best. Mostly this is down to the exceptional acting from an exceptional cast--from major to minor roles. Unlike other reviewers, I liked the take of Mary-Louise Parker. She very much represented a certain American type as created through the lens of European stereotyping--to which James was not immune. (And of Shelley Winters and Shelley Duvall, perfect.) There are some really good insights among the five star reviews here, and one or two of the four star review. So I'm going to cop out at this point, save you some time and say...look around and give it a try if you like variety.
34 people found this helpful
Pamela M.Reviewed in the United States on March 18, 2019
2.0 out of 5 starsThere is some good, but very little
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This movie is a waste of precious time. If you like a movie that is resolute, or that has an ending, this isn't it. It is slow and pointless. Great actors were wasted making this movie.

Without the description, you would never know this girl was brought from America to England because her parents died. It isn't in the movie but is clearly the the purpose of the story, sort of. I love period movies, but only when they have a clear plot, storyline and ending, this has neither, so it is a triple fail.

Clearly written by some fairytale-struck woman-child that has never lived a life. It is not a Portrait of a Lady. It is wanton depression and foolishness. Don't pity a character, especially one so actively digging her own demise while living in childish closet naughty-girl lala land. The movie is plain stupid. I gave it 2 stars because of the scenery. The entire movie is EXTREMELY darkly lit. Turn up the brightness on your monitor.
33 people found this helpful
JimReviewed in the United States on March 7, 2019
4.0 out of 5 starsThis is Henry James
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This is Henry James, folks. He may not be your cup of tea. Frankly, he writes for women rather than men. The characters of this story are unbelievably shallow. They inhabit a constricted world. Your dog has a greater understanding of life and human emotions. I was bored to tears for much of it.

However, James indicates a depth of existence underneath the surface, and gives glimpses of profundity. He is one of my favorite authors.
36 people found this helpful
WorldChampReviewed in the United States on March 7, 2019
1.0 out of 5 starsJust couldn't follow
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I tried, I really tried .... Just couldn't get it. Wait, was that his daughter? Wife? Lover? Cousin? huh?
Nope. As beautiful as it all was, and as cool as it was to see Hershey, Bale, Malkovich and Gilgoud,... woah! Winters!? all in the same flick, it just didnt do it.
30 people found this helpful
Holly MatthewsReviewed in the United States on March 23, 2019
1.0 out of 5 starsMost boring movie ever.
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I kept expecting something really great from this movie, it never happened. The herione/protagonist is boring, without character, seems like she has an independent mind in the beginning but in the end is one tired old representation of Victorian sensibility, except this girl is eloquently stupid in ever way. Most boring movie ever.
16 people found this helpful
GeriReviewed in the United States on August 31, 2015
4.0 out of 5 starsThe beautiful gardens and scenery
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Amazon's current description of this movie doesn't have anything at all to do with the actual movie. Amazon's description refers to the transgender performer, Barbara Herr, and not to the classic tale from the Henry James novel. :D :D :D

Nicole Kidman with her young fresh face completely devoid of makeup. The divine costumes of rich fabrics. The beautiful gardens and scenery. Great story. Great acting. Great escape from daily reality. Great rainy day home alone kind of movie to watch so you can immerse yourself in the story.

John Malkovich is the perfect insidious bad guy - soft spoken, manipulative, & completely evil. So good at being evil you'll still hate him when the movie ends. :D
44 people found this helpful
P.F. WalshReviewed in the United States on July 13, 2014
5.0 out of 5 starsBrilliantly Conceived, Acted and Directed Film
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This is an intelligently conceived and directed film. Ms. Campion begins her film about 40% of the way into the book and that is a minor problem because if the audience has not read the book they are missing some necessary background on the Isabel/Kidman character. However, I found myself holding my breath in the scenes between Malkovich and Kidman. Henry James gave us a truly evil character in Gilbert Osmond and John Malkovich gets to his core in a brilliant, understated yet intense performance. If you are tired of special effects films and crap comedies loaded with genital and toilet jokes, give yourself a treat and watch this film.
46 people found this helpful
joanReviewed in the United States on August 8, 2019
3.0 out of 5 starsFinally
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Films made from Henry James novels are always so beautiful. If you've seen The Golden Bowl you'll recognize the same here. Period pieces like this are lovely and boring at the same time however. This is my third time trying to watch this and I finally got through it. So beautiful, so stylish but soooooo boring. Its a shame because everybody is very good. Nicole Kidman in her natural & lovely state, no makeup & long curly red hair is just right here. And John Malkovitch such evil so well. Barbara Hershey deserved that nomination for sure. But why is this movie so DARK? Drawn drapes, gloomy museums and homely houses with furniture that weighs a ton just to look at. I realize that was the style in Victorian times, but couldn't they let a little sunshine in the windows? Anyway, I FINALLY got through it & I did enjoy looking at Nicole and her lovely gowns.
4 people found this helpful
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