Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Thoughts on Adrian Lyne's Lolita (1997)

- Stephen Skiff's adapted screenplay is certainly a more faithful one of Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel than Stanley Kubrick's, but unlike the original adaptation, this is ridiculously tedious to sit through. It was damn hard. It wasn't sexy, it lacked the dark humor of the novel, and the macabre emotional complexities of Humbert's character (who is the first person narrator throughout) is completely lost. At odd times throughout the film the image is accompanied by a quote pulled from his inner thoughts, plucked seemingly at random from the novel. You actually forget that we are viewing everything through his eyes. The big surprise at the conclusion is made so ridiculously obvious, and revealed in a way that assumes the audience is stupid. The ensuing climactic bloodbath is also unnecessarily violent.

- As with any adaptation, it is impossible to include every significant event, but over the course of the first twenty minutes of the film, we are meant to believe not only that Humbert has fallen obsessively in love with this irritating little nymphet, but that her mother Charlotte has also fallen in love with him. Never is this made apparent, but viewers who have read the novel know that this process takes place over a period of time. Not two scenes. Also not revealed in the film is the fact that Humbert contemplates killing Charlotte at the lake (to have Lo to himself), and the enormous relief that washes over him when he runs out and discovers her dead is completely lost. It seemed like it wanted to be gutsy and controversial, but ended up being half-assed and ineffective.

- The film follows the chronology of the novel pretty closely, but the first half of the novel is skimmed over in about the first half an hour of the film, while Humbert and Dolores' lengthy trip is covered through a series of poorly constructed episodes, broken up by meager attempts to build a chemistry. To stay faithful to the source, events seem to just pop up without any development. As much time is spent on Humbert's hopeless attempt to remove a jaw-breaker from Lolita's mouth while driving, as to any other moment of actual significance in the film.

- Dreadful casting. Jeremy Irons was incredibly dull, and despite his apparent passionate desire for Dolores, never once does his face reveal such lust. The chemistry with his co-star Dominique Swain was also non-existent. First-timer Swain portrayed Lolita as an irritating, disgusting little brat, who proved to be far more annoying than I read her to be in the novel. Melanie Griffith and Frank Langella were also average in small supporting roles. 

- Lolita is a mess. Characterized by a misguided, disappointingly oversimplified screenplay that really mixed up priorities, poor direction, horrible plot structuring, various out-of-place, jolting camera movements, unimaginative set design, dreary lighting and score, lack of any sensuality or chemistry between the leads and terrible performances. This is not recommended to any fans of the novel. Check out Stanley Kubrick's much superior 1962 version instead. 

Rating: 1 Star

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