The House of Mirth


Generally favorable reviews - based on 30 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 26 out of 30
  2. Negative: 1 out of 30

Critic Reviews

  1. The stop-the-presses news from The House of Mirth is the number of fine performances from people you never knew had it in them.
  2. Rolling Stone
    Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    The House of Mirth is not one of those teacup and doily movies; it's harsh and disturbing. Davies does superlatively right by Wharton. There's blood on the walls.
  3. This stunning movie -- one of the very best of the year -- makes a much read American classic feel new and freshly devastating.
  4. Her (Anderson) performance is a study in the difference between hubris and pride, remarkable for how unshowy but profoundly devastating it is.
  5. Portland Oregonian
    Reviewed by: Shawn Levy
    Anderson, possessed of an eerily Edwardian aspect, is superb, luminous and knowing and convincingly proud and desperate as the situation requires.
  6. 90
    Leisurely yet streamlined film, brilliantly adapted by British filmmaker Terence Davies from Edith Wharton's most powerful novel.
  7. 90
    Davies has nailed Wharton's bitter satire of the flights and follies of New York society in the Gilded Age, and leading lady Gillian Anderson shows dazzling range in her portrayal of the book's doomed heroine.
  8. The cast as a whole is astonishing--especially Gillian Anderson as Lily and Dan Aykroyd in his finest role to date.
  9. 90
    Anderson's Lily is the kind of heroine who earns our protectiveness by never begging for it; it's an astonishing performance.
  10. Although the cast is uniformly strong, the real revelation here is "The X-Files' " Anderson, who plays Lily with subtle gradations of emotional depth unexpected from someone who has made a career out of deadpan.
  11. 90
    Has a marvelous, pent-up passion.
  12. Above all else expresses the timeless impact of Lily Bart's plight.
  13. Boston Globe
    Reviewed by: Jay Carr
    There was little mirth or innocence in the world that Wharton was able to write her way out of (she was much happier living in Paris), and Davies and his leading lady lift the silks to reveal it as the minefield it was.
  14. USA Today
    Reviewed by: Staff [Not Credited]
    Terence Davies' deliberately paced, earnest adaptation of Edith Wharton's breakthrough novel quietly captures the grim complexities of New York's social world nearly a century ago.
  15. 88
    The movie will seem slow to some viewers, unless they are alert to the raging emotions, the cruel unfairness and the desperation that are masked by the measured and polite words of the characters.
  16. 80
    With consummate grace and exceptional style, Terence Davies transformed Edith Wharton's caustic tragedy of manners into a somber, languid dream.
  17. Terence Davies's The House of Mirth is a rigorously elegant adaptation of the Edith Wharton novel, and unlike in some other Davies movies, the rigor here doesn't turn into rigor mortis.... This is dourness of a degree you won't find in Wharton, but in its own shadowed terms the film is a triumph.
  18. Reviewed by: David D'Arcy
    Stick with the film, accept the rules of the time and the meditative rhythm of the language that Davies has woven into his story, and you won't be disappointed. Then read the novel. It's even better.
  19. Miami Herald
    Reviewed by: Sara Wildberger
    While House of Mirth is well done as a period piece, it has such an eerie contemporary resonance that you nearly forget about the horses and corsets and lamplight.
  20. Philadelphia Inquirer
    Reviewed by: Desmond Ryan
    This is very much Anderson's film. The publication of the novel made Wharton's reputation. The release of The House of Mirth should do the same for Anderson.
  21. Baltimore Sun
    Reviewed by: Chris Kaltenbach
    Anderson brings real gravitas to the unfortunate Lily Bart, in an Oscar-caliber performance that makes one wonder what Academy voters are looking for.
  22. Chicago Tribune
    Reviewed by: Marc Caro
    What the movie occasionally lacks is dramatic juice. A reader of the novel will have a greater sense of the obstacles keeping Lily and Lawrence apart than fresh viewers of the movie will.
  23. Wharton's old-school compassion and Davies's taste for artfully wrought melodrama make an unusual but ultimately successful combination.
  24. Mr. Showbiz
    Reviewed by: Kevin Maynard
    How well you respond to this handsomely mounted, cold-blooded tragedy will depend on your feelings toward Gillian Anderson's highly theatrical lead performance.
  25. Reviewed by: Derek Elley
    Visually detailed but emotionally dry.
  26. In the lead, Anderson ("The X-Files") is competent but never quite makes the character come soaring to life.

Awards & Rankings

User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 18 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 6
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 6
  3. Negative: 0 out of 6
  1. May 20, 2013
    This Terence Davies emotive period drama could be a sterling double-bill with THE GREAT GATSBY (2013, 8/10), which is the penultimate film IThis Terence Davies emotive period drama could be a sterling double-bill with THE GREAT GATSBY (2013, 8/10), which is the penultimate film I have watched. Last year I hold my underwhelmed apathy towards Davies’ THE DEEP BLUE SEA (2011, 6/10), my first Davies film entry, but a closer DVD viewing of THE HOUSE OF MIRTH greatly galvanizes my affinity to Edith Wharton’s convoluted story of a woman’s inept battle with the hypocrites and the iniquitous of the well-heeled echelon near the beginning of 20th century in New York, it is the dramatic demise of an unsullied soul, there is no mirth at all.

    Anderson’s Lily, an ill-fitted maiden of upper class, sustained by her wealthy aunt Julia’s (a ghastly Bron) charity, balks between her passionate desire with a lower class lawyer Lawrence (Stoltz) and her promising marriage with an upstart Sim (LaPaglia), to whom she has no feelings at all, meanwhile a bad investment or a guileless trust to the wrong man (Aykroyd) corners her into a financial predicament, which subsequently creates discord between her and Julia and eventually will cost her the endowment of the inheritance. That’s not enough, she is also manipulated to be the pull-upon by her friend Bertha (Linney), while the most excruciating fact is that Lily has the substantial evidence to give Bertha the tit-for-tat, but she can never make up her mind to do it (out of self-respect or the dread of destroying Lawrence’s reputation since he is the other partaker in the affair). So Lily is a woman of dignity, even when she is utterly at the end of her tether (she has to take a menial job to earn a living, which she will be dismissed for her incompetence), she refuses to take Sim’s succor, her ill-fated life succumbs to a plaintive dirge of an irreversible tragedy.

    Davies conducts the film adeptly with elegant costumes, shady light compositions, the interior murkiness augurs the dark-amber and midnight-blue tinctures in THE DEEP BLUE SEA, grants melancholy its most suffocating ambiance to submerge audiences’ compassion, the score of classical orchestra makes the story even more poignant.

    The film is also a victory for its cast, Gillian Anderson (I have never watched the X-FILE series and its movie spinoffs), under the bridle of the corset, most of her time her breath is visibly confined into an asphyxiated discomfort just like her character’s situation, performance-wise, it may be her once-of-a-lifetime glory, carries out the emotional roller coaster throughout, shamefully it is less acknowledged. Eric Stolz, whose tender tune undergirds his man-child debonair, shows his best form as the man who fails to save his beloved woman. Laura Linney, pretty much nails the virulence and slyness in this less-known work. Jodhi May is great in turning on the waterworks but her character overall has been skated over.

    Admittedly I have a predilection towards period dramas, and I may miss out some literal undertones of the proficiently organized conversations by Wharton and the dramaturge (Davies himself), but the film is so close in my top 10 list in such a strong year.
    Full Review »
  2. [Anonymous]
    Jan 24, 2006
    This performance should have won Gillian Anderson the Oscar. The entire movie is like watching a beautiful painting come to life.