'Howards End': THR's 1992 Review

Howards End - H - 1992
140 minutes of cinematic bliss.

On Feb. 27, 1992, Sony Pictures Classics held the premiere for James Ivory's Howards End adaptation in New York. The film would go on to earn nine Oscar nominations at the 65th Academy Awards, winning three, including best actress for Emma Thompson, adapted screenplay and art direction. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below:  

From start to finish, Howards End is a sumptuous visual delight. But the beauty of this film is far more than skin deep.

Director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant, two names synonymous with quality, have once again turned out a production that is rich in both texture and substance.

Aided by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's literate adaptation of E.M. Forster's novel, and the near flawless ensemble acting, Howards End is 140 minutes of cinematic bliss.

The art house crowd is certain to be enraptured by this gem. Many of the same ingredients that made A Room With a View such a popular success are present here, though Howards End ultimately is more downbeat. Still, there is potential to gain a wider, more mainstream audience.

In light of this year's approaching telecast of the Academy Awards, it seems fitting to suggest that Howards End will most certainly garner some Oscar nominations next year, assuming voters don't forget this lovely film.

Tony Pierce-Roberts' breathtaking cinematography ascends to even greater heights in this film. The clarity and scope of each shot sets a new standard of excellence.

Enhancing each shot are the splendid actors therein. Emma Thompson is very much alive again as the indomitably spirited Margaret Schlegel. Together with sister Helen (Helena Bonham Carter) and brother Tibby (Adrian Ross Magenty), they raise the level of levity in stuffy old England in the early 1900s.

Through some quirks of fate, the "exceptional" and humble Schlegels repeatedly cross paths with the ridiculously wealthy Wilcox clan.

Though perhaps separated by class, Margaret and the sickly Wilcox matriarch, Ruth (Vanessa Redgrave), form an almost spiritual friendship. This chance, but meaningful, encounter is the catalyst for all that follows.

The differing relationships between the disparate characters, and the unique characters themselves, are all richly developed. [...]

Redgrave, in an all-too-brief role, is wonderfully mannered and vulnerable. She is the total antithesis of her coarse character in The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (another Merchant Ivory production), once again displaying her wide range of talent.

It is Thompson, however, who is the lifeblood of this film, and she effectively infuses the proceedings with compassion, humor and heart.

Anthony Hopkins shows admirable restraint as the repressed Henry Wilcox, whose life is indelibly changed by a heavy dose of Margaret. His initial coldness of character is a nice contrast to the glowing warmth of the Schlegels.

In masterful fashion, director Ivory methodically unveils his story. Although there are several scenes that could use an edit or two, the action flows smoothly. So much happens within each scene that Ivory proves to be a brilliant and invisible choreographer of details. — Jeff Menell, originally published March 13, 1992