Room With a View, A (1986): Merchant Ivory Oscar Nominee

After years of bland films that never went much beyond the art house public, the Merchant-Ivory team has made “A Room With a View,” a light, droll comedy of manners and morals, a literary adaptation of the classic novel by E.M. Forster.

A remarkably accomplished film, considering that it was made on a relatively small budget (about $3 million), the movie swept many Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Director, and became a hit.

The sensibility is still skewed toward the “Masterpiece Theater” approach, but this time round, perhaps inspired by the Tuscany locations, the film is more buoyant, lacking the stuffy, middlebrow and restrained style of most of their previous efforts. The movie revolves around a romantic triangle, centering son the young, beautiful and nave Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter), who is torn between two vastly different suitors, the earnest George Emerson (Julian Sands) and the goofy and eccentric Cecil Vyse (Daniel Day-Lewis). That same year, 1986, Day-Lewis gave another stellar performance in “My Beautiful Launderette.”

The film is extremely well-cast, with top-notch performances by Maggie Smith As Charlotte Bartlett, Luchy’s chaperone, Denholm Elliott as Mr. Emerson in an Oscar-nominated turn, and Judi Dench, who in the next decade went on to become a major screen actress.

Oscar Alert

Oscar Nominations: 8

Picture: produced by Ismail Merchant Director: James Ivory Screenplay (Adapted): Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Supporting Actor: Denholm Elliott Supporting Actress: Maggie Smith Cinematography: Tony Pierce-Roberts Art Direction-Set Decoration: Gianni Quaranta and Brian Ackland-Snow; Brian Savegar and Elio Altamura Costume Design: Jenny Beavan and John Bright

Oscar Awards: 3

Screenplay

Art Direction

Costume Design

Oscar Context

In 1986, the Merchant-Ivory period adaptation “A Room With a View” competed for the Best Picture Oscar with Woody Allen’s serio-comedy “Hannah and Her Sisters,” the well-acted melodrama “Children of Lesser God,” Oliver Stone’s Vietnam combat film “Platoon,” which won, the dull historical epic “The Mission.”

The nominations caused a scandal when the helmer of “Children of a Lesser God,” Randa Haines, failed to receive a Best Director nod, probably because of the gender; similar discrimination occurs when both Penny Marshall and Barbra Streisand were snubbed by the Director Branch, despite the fact that their pictures, “Awakenings” and “The Prince of Tides,” respectively, did get Best Picture nominations.

The Cinematography Oscar went to Chris Menges for “The Mission.” Both Michael Caine and Dianne Wiest won the Supporting Acting Oscars for Woody Allen’s comedy “Hannah and Her Sisters.”

Cast

Charlotte Bartlett (Maggie Smith) Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) Mr. Emerson (Denholm Elliott) George Emerson (Julian Sands) Cecil Vyse (Daniel Day-Lewis Reverend Beebe (Simon Callow) Miss Lavish (Judi Dench) Mrs. Honeychurch (Rosemary Leach) Freddy Honeychurch (Rupert Graves) Mr. Eager (Patrick Godfrey)

Credits

Cinecom Pictures (Merchant Ivory and Goldcrest Production)

Picture: produced by Ismail Merchant

Director: James Ivory

Screenplay (Adapted): Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, based on the novel by E. M. Forster

Cinematography: Tony Pierce-Roberts

Editing: Humphrey Dixon

Art Direction-Set Decoration: Gianni Quaranta and Brian Ackland-Snow; Brian Savegar and Elio Altamura

Costume Design: Jenny Beavan and John Bright

Music: Richard Robbins

Production design: Gianni Quaranta, Brian Ackland-Snow

Running time: 115 Minutes