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The Magnificent Ambersons

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Product Details

  • Actors: Madeleine Stowe, Bruce Greenwood, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Gretchen Mol, Jennifer Tilly
  • Directors: Alfonso Arau
  • Writers: Booth Tarkington, Orson Welles
  • Producers: Aldo U. Passalacqua, David Craig, Delia Fine, Doris Schwartz, Gene Kirkwood
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: A&E Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: February 26, 2002
  • Run Time: 150 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005UW73
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,850 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Magnificent Ambersons" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Behind-the-scenes featurette
  • Orson Welles biography/filmography

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

James Cromwell, Bruce Greenwood, Jennifer Tilly. A magnificent remake of Orson Welles' timeless tale of pride and jealousy among the prominent family of a Midwestern town at the turn of the 20th century. Directed by Alfonso Arau ( Like Water for Chocolate ). 2002/color/150 min/NR/fullscreen.


Alfonso Arau's handsome The Magnificent Ambersons, based on Orson Welles's original screenplay, is a brave attempt to restore the dramatic scenes lost when RKO radically recut Welles's magnificent 1941 masterpiece, but it's less a remake than a new take on the material. Bruce Greenwood makes a gracious and sincere Eugene Morgan, the inventor who woos heiress Isabel Amberson (a vibrant Madeleine Stowe) and finds his rival is her spoiled, arrogant son, George (played with sneering, bug-eyed intensity by Jonathan Rhys Meyers). It hits a few sour notes (notably Meyers and a terribly miscast Jennifer Tilly as the jealous Aunt Fanny), but the "new" scenes explore the sprawl of the city, the falling fortunes of the Amberson dynasty, and the almost incestuous intimacy between mother and son only hinted at in Welles's compromised version. It may lack the grand design and cinematic grace of Welles, but it creates its own gentle take on Booth Tarkington's turbulent novel. --Sean Axmaker

Customer Reviews

This movie was extremely well acted.
Sarah Finley
Two stars for their performances, particularly Bruce Greenwood, and, for Gretchen Mol as Lucy.
It is all wrong, never once sounding like a person.
J. C Clark

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 19, 2004
Format: DVD
Much ado is made about the dual ending of classic film "The Magnificent Ambersons," which was originally made by Orson Welles. The remake is more or less faithful to the original material, but some bad casting (Jennifer Tilly is the worst example), weird scripting, and a rather ambiguous tone scratch it up.

George (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) is the youngest member of the rich Amberson family, including his grandfather, mother, uncle and aunt. He's been raised as a prince, and he acts like one too -- spoiled and imperious. He falls in love with the beautiful Lucy (Gretchen Mol), the daughter of automobile innovator Eugene (Bruce Greenwood). Unfortunately, Eugene has always been in love with George's mother Isabel (Madeleine Stowe).

Jealous and disapproving of the "new money" people, George sets out to wreck the budding relationship between his mother and Eugene. He succeeds -- but at the cost of his own relationship with Lucy. Still imperious, George continues on his way without knowing that the growing urban sprawl marks the decline of the Amberson family into poverty...

It's always interesting to see how society changed in the past, as it does here and "The Forsyte Saga." And that's actually the most interesting part of "Magnificent Ambersons," not the family saga. Unfortunately, we only get an occasional glimpse of this. The rest of the time, it's merely more of George's tedious tantrums, and his family worrying about money and relationships.

Alfonso Arau seems to have been sleeping during the production of this -- he adds a sparkling grandeur to the early scenes. But the color fades quickly; pretty soon it's just a slow decline, with little to hold your interest.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By NyteScrybe on December 6, 2004
Format: DVD
Being a period movie afficionado, I had great hopes for this movie. However, I regret to say...do not waste your money. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers has been excellent in other movies I have seen, but his acting in this is so overblown and forced it is painful to watch, and I am not using this wording frivolously. There were actually a couple of points during the movie where the acting was so pathetic I could not look at the screen...much like pretending to not notice when someone slips on the ice, just to save you both from the embarrassment. Rhys-Meyers' good looks did nothing to take my attention from his terrible performance.

Gretchen Mol's performance was wooden and with a plastic smile plastered over her face during most of the movie, she seems to simply be walking her way through the movie, as if she can't wait for the "Cut!" so she can make a break for the caterer's buffet. Madeline Stowe's performance was acceptable as Rhys-Meyers' mother, but not up to her usual standards. Jennifer Tilly gave her Aunt Fannie character a valiant try, but she is terribly miscast and could not seem to find it within herself to even produce tears during any of her apoplectic fits.

I am SO disappointed in this movie. Luckily, I rented it before buying it on Amazon and am thankful to have only lost the rental fee instead of purchasing it to sit unwatched on my DVD shelf until it turned to dust. It may have made a decent drink coaster, however...
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By "lady_fushia" on February 12, 2002
Format: DVD
... delayed release of "The Magnificant Ambersons" for a year after its completion, and now we know why.
Perhaps the editors hoped in post production to create what Director Alfonso Arau could not realize on film.
With his quirky direction, Arau aimed for the sublime and ended up with something ridiculous. His take on "The Magnificant Ambersons" not only fails to redeem Orson Welles' 1942 vision, it fails on the level of fundamental storytelling.
It wasn't the fault of the story.
Boothe Tarkington's novel about the decline of the land-wealthy, prestigious Amberson family in the face of modernization, the Industrial Revolution and growth of the middle class was a grand American tale.
It wasn't for lack of money.
The production had a lavish budget. It was shot at an old estate in Ireland and no expense was spared constructing a set that looked like turn-of-the-century Indianapolis.
It wasn't the fault of the actors.
The wonderful cast included such talented actors as James Cromwell, Bruce Greenwood, Madeline Stowe and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
Arau gave most of them too little to do.
In the role of Major Amberson, a Civil War veteran made good on land speculation, Cromwell should have given us more insight into the actions and past of the Ambersons - how that led to the warped, rigid value system of his grandson, Georgie.
Georgie Minafer (Rhys Meyers) is supposed to have charms that buffer his dark tendencies to be bigoted, narrow-minded and incestuous, he acts like a brat with attention defecit disorder, always flailing about.
His character never gets to move beyond one whining, pouting note.
Thus, when circumstances force a change on his part, the change seems wholely implausible.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 10, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
Since the point of this version of "The Magnificent Ambersons" is to "restore" the scenes that were lost when the study cut the Orson Welles version from 148 to 88 minutes, it becomes impossible to judge it by a different standard in which we pretend this was the first time Booth Tarkington's Pulitzer Prize winning book was brought to the screen. Ironically, if the point is to emphasize those lost scenes, then viewers need to watch the 1942 version to help you recognize the scenes when they crop up; they mostly have to do with the way modern things like the automobile change the face of the town in which the Ambersons rule. Of course, most films suffer in comparison to the original Mercury Production.
This 2002 production is handsome enough, although it lacks the distinctive cinematography and art direction of the Welles' film. Bruce Greenwood cuts a suitably dashing figure as Eugene Morgan and Madeleine Stowe makes a tragic enough Isabel. My problem with this version is the same as it was in the original: I can never really accept the idea that Lucy Morgan, well-played by the fetching Gretchen Mol, would ever really want to have anything to do with George Amberson Minafer, played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. I will admit there are scenes in the later part of the film where Rhys-Meyers manages to find something charming in the character, and we do get into Lucy's thoughts on the matter at one point, but for the most part Georgie is played with such bug-eyed intensity that I find it impossible to believe his mother does not know her spoiled little brat is on a level all his own as a world-class jerk. The film also goes a bit too far with suggesting some sort of Oedipus complex at work behind their relationship.
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