The Bostonians (1984) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Bostonians (1984)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Adapted by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala from the novel by Henry James, Merchant/Ivory's The Bostonians is set among the Back Bay uppercrust of the 19th century. Basil Ransom (Christopher Reeve), bored by his opulent lifestyle and his "proper" friends, is fascinated by his cousin, outspoken suffragette Olive Chancellor (Vanessa Redgrave). Basil and Olive's mutual friend is likeable, gregarious Verena Tannant (Madeleine Potter). Soon a triangle develops, albeit an unorthodox one: Basil and Olive both find themselves pursuing Verena, Basil because he is in love with her, and Olive because she wants to exploit Verena's social connections and gift for public speaking to promote her own political ideology. Lurking in the background is Verena's true love, poor-but-honest attorney Henry Burrage (John Van Ness).

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Christopher Reeve
as Basil Ransome
Madeleine Potter
as Verena Tarrant
Vanessa Redgrave
as Olive Chancellor
Jessica Tandy
as Miss Birdseye
Nancy Marchand
as Mrs. Burrage
Wesley Addy
as Dr. Tarrant
Barbara Bryne
as Mrs. Tarrant
Linda Hunt
as Dr. Prance
Nancy New
as Adeline Luna
John Van Ness Philip
as Henry Burrage
Wallace Shawn
as Mr. Pardon
Maura Moynihan
as Henrietta Stackpole
Martha Farrar
as Mrs. Farrinder
Peter Bogyo
as Mr. Gracie
Barbara Byrne
as Mrs. Tarrant
Charles McCaughan
as Music-Hall Policeman
Lee Doyle
as Mr. Filer
Jon Van Ness
as Henry Burrage
Janet Cicchese
as Irish Washerwoman
Scott Kradolfer
as Tough Boy
June Mitchell
as Party Guest
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Critic Reviews for The Bostonians

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (5)

''The Bostonians'' is, from its opening shot to last, a rare delight, a high comedy with tragic undertones, acted to passionate perfection by a cast of the best actors ever assembled by the Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala team.

December 6, 2018 | Full Review…

James' story is so fascinating and Redgrave so urgently fine that you can lose sight of these lapses and have an eminently satisfying time.

December 6, 2018 | Full Review…

Like the Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala team's 1979 The Europeans, this is a classy adaptation of a Henry James novel.

July 6, 2010 | Full Review…

[The Bostonians is] intelligent and subtle and open to the underlying tragedy of a woman who does not know what she wants, a man who does not care what he wants, and a girl who does not need what she wants.

October 23, 2004 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

''The Bostonians,'' which opens today at Cinema I, unfolds elegantly but not always smoothly... But the performances, especially that of the astonishing Miss Redgrave, generate an urgency and momentum to match Mr. James's own.

May 20, 2003 | Full Review…

The women's movement as a whole is... presented in the film as the creature of a couple of reporters on the make and a handful of aristocratic Boston spinsters whose other pet causes include faith healing.

August 20, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Bostonians


Christopher Reeve is good if a bit stiff and Vanessa Redgrave is exquisite as always but the pace is slow and the central character and lead actress lack a radiance and fire that is essential for the story to engage.

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

An early Merchant-Ivory offering. It frankly just isn't very good. Poor Christopher Reeve had real problems when he had to stretch himself.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

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