The Golden Bowl (film)

The Golden Bowl is a 2000 period romantic drama film directed by James Ivory. The screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is based on the 1904 novel of the same name by Henry James, who considered the work his masterpiece.[3] It stars Kate Beckinsale, James Fox, Anjelica Huston, Nick Nolte, Jeremy Northam, Madeleine Potter, and Uma Thurman.

The Golden Bowl
Original poster
Directed byJames Ivory
Screenplay byRuth Prawer Jhabvala
Based onThe Golden Bowl
by Henry James
Produced byIsmail Merchant
StarringKate Beckinsale
James Fox
Anjelica Huston
Nick Nolte
Jeremy Northam
Madeleine Potter
Uma Thurman
CinematographyTony Pierce-Roberts
Edited byJohn David Allen
Music byRichard Robbins
Distributed byTF1 International (France)
Lions Gate Films (United States)
Buena Vista International (United Kingdom)[1]
Release dates
  • 13 September 2000 (2000-09-13) (France)
  • 3 November 2000 (2000-11-03) (United Kingdom)
  • 27 April 2001 (2001-04-27) (United States)
Running time
130 minutes
CountriesUnited States
United Kingdom
Budget$15 million
Box office$5.7 million[2]


Impoverished Roman Prince Amerigo is engaged to American socialite Maggie Verver. Maggie has a very close relationship with her millionaire father Adam, a widowed tycoon living in England who plans a museum in the United States to house his collection of art and antiquities.

Unbeknownst to his fiancée and prior to their engagement, Amerigo had a brief, passionate affair with Maggie's friend Charlotte. Both were penniless, and Amerigo breaks off their affair due to his engagement. Charlotte is still in love with him when she visits mutual friend Fanny Assingham in London. Maggie invites her to the wedding, and at Maggie's request, Amerigo takes Charlotte to an antiques shop to look for a wedding gift. The proprietor Jarvis shows them a bowl, carved from a single piece of rock crystal, which he asserts is flawless. Amerigo notices a crack. Charlotte claims not to see the crack, only the bowl's beauty. She is unsure whether to buy the bowl so Jarvis reserves it pending her decision.

Maggie and Amerigo marry and have a son. Adam and Charlotte also marry, much to Maggie's delight. Three years pass and the two couples' lives are closely interwoven. Maggie and Adam's closeness alienates their spouses. Fanny correctly suspects that Amerigo and Charlotte have rekindled their affair. Maggie also becomes suspicious and confides in Fanny, but Fanny, wanting to protect Maggie's feelings, tries to discourage such thoughts. Adam observes close interactions between Charlotte and Amerigo but stays silent, not wanting Maggie to be hurt.

Maggie looks for a birthday gift for her father in Jarvis's shop, and chooses the bowl Jarvis had set aside for Charlotte years ago. Jarvis delivers it to her home. While there, he recognizes photographs of Amerigo and Charlotte and innocently reveals they were the couple who originally considered purchasing the bowl before the wedding. Maggie realizes that the two were not meeting for the first time, as she had always assumed, and vents her feelings to Fanny. Fanny breaks the glass bowl, saying it is the only proof of Amerigo and Charlotte being together, and she can pretend nothing happened. Maggie confronts Amerigo, who confesses. Maggie says the bowl represents their marriage, it appeared beautiful and perfect but was flawed. Amerigo begs Maggie not tell her father and not to leave. Maggie agrees not to tell her father for fear of hurting him, but is unsure how she feels about her husband.

Adam is distant, and suggests to Charlotte that they return to the United States for the opening of his museum. She is strongly opposed. Tension grows when Amerigo and Maggie arrive with the Assinghams. Amerigo is distant to Charlotte, who worries that Adam and Maggie know of the affair. Maggie and Adam agree to move apart from each other to protect their families. Maggie and Amerigo prepare for a permanent move to Italy, while Adam puts Charlotte in charge of packing the artifacts in preparation for their move to America. Charlotte begs Amerigo to run away with her but he rejects the idea and expresses guilt at being unfaithful and lying to his wife. Charlotte reconciles to being with Adam, and the film ends with the couple arriving to fanfare in an American city.



Director Ivory, producer Merchant, and screenwriter Jhabvala previously collaborated on screen adaptations of the Henry James novels The Europeans and The Bostonians. Conflict erupted between Northam and Beckinsale after the latter asked him to walk faster in a scene to avoid stepping on the train of her dress. Northam was so angry at being given a "note" by a fellow actor that he became belligerent towards Beckinsale; her husband, Michael Sheen, responded by punching him in the face.[4][5]

The film was shot at various locations throughout England, including Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire, Burghley House in Lincolnshire, Helmingham Hall in Suffolk, the Kew Bridge Steam Museum and Syon House in Middlesex, and Lancaster House and Mansion House in London. Italian locations included Palazzo Borghese in Artena and Prince Massimo's Castle in Arsoli.

The soundtrack includes "Moonstruck" by Lionel Monckton and Ivan Caryll, "Sarabande" by Claude Debussy, and "Wall Street Rag" by Scott Joplin.


The film premiered at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival. When it received a cool reception, executives at Miramax Films, the original distributor, asked Ivory and Merchant to make several cuts to shorten its running time. When they refused, the company sold the film to Lions Gate.[3]

The film opened throughout Europe before going into limited release in the US on 27 April 2001, following an earlier showing at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. It opened on five screens and earned $90,170 on its opening weekend. At its widest release in the US, it played in 117 theaters. It eventually grossed $3,050,532 in the US and $2,703,146 in foreign markets for a total worldwide box office of $5,753,678.[2]

Critical receptionEdit

The Golden Bowl received mixed to positive reviews; it currently holds a 53% rating on Rotten Tomatoes; the consensus states: "Coming from the Merchant–Ivory team, The Golden Bowl is visually stunning, but the filmmakers have difficulty in transporting the characterizations of the Henry James novel to the screen."[6]

The New York Times observed, "In translating the novel into a film, the producer Ismail Merchant, his directing partner, James Ivory, and their favorite screenwriter, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, have made a movie that's an ambitious, profoundly ambiguous statement about their own passion for the cultivated, high-culture sensibility epitomized by James and E. M. Forster, as opposed to the cruder mass culture that has eclipsed these literary heroes . . . Much of the dialogue in Ms. Jhabvala's carefully wrought screenplay voices feelings that remain unspoken in the novel, and this is the movie's biggest problem. No matter how well the characters' thoughts have been translated into speech, the act of compressing their rich, complex inner lives into dialogue without resorting to voice-over narration inevitably tends to cheapen them and turn a drama about the revelation of hidden truths into the terser, more commonplace language of an intelligent soap opera."[3]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times observed, "I admired this movie. It kept me at arm's length, but that is where I am supposed to be; the characters are after all at arm's length from each other, and the tragedy of the story is implied but never spoken aloud. It will help, I think, to be familiar with the novel, or to make a leap of sympathy with the characters."[7]

Mike Clark of USA Today rated the film two out of four stars and commented, "Too many dialogue exchanges sound like actors reading lines, and even the film's better performers seem to be acting in a vacuum. The movie establishes good will (or even great will) in the initial scenes because it's so gorgeous, but the rest is such a slog that even the revealed significance of the title artifact elicits a shrug."[8]

Emanuel Levy of Variety called the film "vastly uneven, with some wonderful period touches but also more than a few tedious moments," "tasteful, diffident and decorous," and "a deliberately paced literary film that takes too long to build narrative momentum and explore its central dramatic conflicts." He added, "James' deft portrait of human frailty and his experimentation in narrative mode only intermittently find vivid expression in the work of Ivory and screenwriter Prawer Jhabvala. Everything in the film, particularly in the last reel, is spelled out in an explicit, literal manner . . . Production values, particularly Andrew Sanders' design and John Bright's costumes, are exquisite, but they decorate a film that's too slow and only sporadically involving."[9]

Awards and nominationsEdit

James Ivory was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.[10] Production designer Andrew Sanders won the Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Technical/Artistic Achievement.

Home mediaEdit

The Region 1 DVD was released on 6 November 2001. The film is in anamorphic widescreen format, with audio tracks in English and French, and subtitles in English and Spanish. The only bonus feature is the original theatrical trailer.


  1. ^ "The Golden Bowl (2000)". BBFC. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ a b c New York Times review
  4. ^ Allie Cahill (1 May 2001). "Fisticuffs on Uma's Film". Retrieved 29 August 2020.
  5. ^ Simon Hattenstone (19 March 2009). "'That's all I play – me'". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 August 2020.
  6. ^ The Golden Bowl at Rotten Tomatoes
  7. ^ Chicago Sun-Times review
  8. ^ USA Today review
  9. ^ Variety review
  10. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Golden Bowl". Retrieved 13 October 2009.

Further readingEdit

  • Tibbetts, John C., and James M. Welsh, eds. The Encyclopedia of Novels into Film (2nd ed. 2005) pp 157–158.

External linksEdit