Washington Square

Director: Agnieszka Holland
Writer: Carol Doyle
Director of Photography:Jerzy Zielinski
Editor:David Siegel
Music:Jan A. P. Kaczmarek
Production Designer:Alan Starski
Producers:Roger Birnbaum and Julie Bergman Sender
Hollywood Pictures/Caravan Pictures; PG; 115 minutes
Cast:Jennifer Jason Leigh, Albert Finney, Maggie Smith, Ben Chaplin and Judith Ivey
Based on the novel by Henry James

Though not completely faithful to the original, Holland's adaptation puts a feminist spin on James's classic, making it an engagingly fresh period drama that doesn't always seem such. Brisk pacing also sets it apart from other costume films, The Portrait of the Lady, for example. Wallflower heiress Catherine Sloper (Leigh), blamed by her father (Finney) for her mother's death in childbirth, is destined for spinsterhood until she meets the dashing but penniless Morris Townsend (Chaplin). Catherine blossoms under his attention but is crushed when her father insists Morris's interests lie only in her dowry. Will triumphs, though, and Catherine emerges as a strong, independent woman. Smith's matchmaking Aunt Lavinia Penniman runs away with nearly every scene.