Adrian Lyne, known for his sexy thrillers such as Fatal Attraction and the recently-released Unfaithful, remakes Stanley Kubrick's Lolita, a tale of sexual jealousy and manipulation, that leads to an ever-darker path.
Jeremy Irons stars as Humbert Humbert, a man who lost the love of his life at the age of 14. Obviously much older now, it is explained that he still longs for that childish beauty, and he finds it in the form of Dolores (Dominique Swain), a girl that soon becomes his step-daughter. They leave town, their relationship hovering somewhere in between purely sexual and father-daughter. Lolita, as he calls her, is sexually aggressive, but at times he becomes sexually violent, always longing for her. What starts out not-so-innocently turns dangerously violent.
Irons, who I always consider a very steady actor (with some not-so-steady career choices) turns in a great performance here, bringing a human side to an otherwise flawed character. He is disturbing jealous towards Lolita, and, though he fears that she will tell someone about what they do, never really considers their sexual acts morally wrong. Irons does an excellent job of making his character the protagonist without justifying what he is doing; he is innocent yet he is not. The last half hour really allows Irons to shine as well, as he really is driven over the edge by his fascination for this little girl he calls his daughter.
Swain, though, steals the show. She is wild, sexy, very manipulative, yet still just a child. 17 when this movie was filled, Dominique Swain combines the sexual-alertness of her real age with the so-called innocence of her character's age to make an enigma of sorts. Dolores likes to play, is sometimes quite stubborn, and knows how to get her way... she just happens to get her way through sex. In Lolita, it should be Humbert who is manipulating his "victim," yet much of the time it seems that it is the other way around. He is so helplessly in love with her (or at least in lust with her) and she knows it; she has him wrapped around his finger and gets the things she wants. At times she is aware of what Humbert is doing to her, but she doesn't know how to stop it, yet she uses everything to her advantage. Even when Humbert does take control and beats her or forces her to do something, she comes right back and gets something she wants in return. The character of Dolores is an immensely complicated figure, and Swain works it perfectly.
The other star of the show is the visuals, thanks to Adrian Lyne. He knows how to make movies like this and does a superb job in doing so; every scene is brilliantly choreographed and filmed. Lyne takes pride in making big things out of small shots, like Irons brushing his teeth or glancing at Dolores. Even if the film was silent, you would be able to pick up what was going on; the movie, at times, looks through Irons' eyes, and just with visuals we are able to see what is going on in his head. That exemplifies a good director.
I have not seen Kubrick's 1962 version, and so I have nothing to compare, but what I do know is that Lyne has captured a brilliant story and turned it into a brilliant movie.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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