Comfort reading: Author EM Forster ( Getty Images )
At our house, all movies are subject to a decisive rating that dates all the way back to 1992. That’s the year we saw Howards End at the cineplex and my husband declared it the most boring film of all time. Whenever we watch a show, particularly one that is a dialogue-driven period piece (meaning I picked it and it is sadly devoid of car chases or martial arts demonstrations), he makes a comparison. “Well, on a scale of 1 to Howards End, I’d give that a…”.
Howards End never comes up after sitting through the latest installment of whatever insipid superhero movie we’ve watched. The most recent contender on the Howards End scale was Florence Foster Jenkins, which we got out of Redbox and had him snoring on the couch within 20 minutes. I mentioned just the other day how much I’d like to see Mary Queen of Scots and I swear I heard him mutter something about Howards End.
Confession time: I thought Howards End was exceptionally boring, too. He carried on so much about it, though, that I heralded it as one of the most artistically-rendered films I’ve ever seen. Over the years, I’ve bloviated over its cinematography, its subtlety, its timeless social criticism. I’ve held as fiercely to its “merits” as he has to its utter lack of pulse. I’ve gone so far as to call it my Jeremiah Johnson. Those are strong words at our place!
The film was adapted from the E.M. Forster book. Forster also wrote A Passage to India, which I’ve started at least 5 times, always giving up during some eternal bicycle ride. That book may be why I can’t quite convince myself to enjoy cycling! Anyway, I picked up Forster’s A Room with a View, determined to make my way through some title by the mug.
It took a good hundred and thirty pages of manners, hen-pecking, and traipsing across the Italian countryside before it finally got…dare I say it…bearable. I did catch myself being concerned for the protagonist’s future. At that point, I was about a hundred pages from the end (not Howards End). I was too far in to quit! The key decision of the book, which gets mulled over to the point of madness, is predictably settled but through unpredictable means. I can appreciate that. There’s also a rather humorous scene involving a skinny-dipping vicar.
To be fair, the book is well-written and does offer scathing commentary on classism and sexism in the 19th century.
A Room with a View served as an effective sedative during the lengthy weeks it took me to trudge through it. Forster’s work, for me at least, is like a double shot of Nyquil: things slow way down until you’re overcome by dreamless sleep. If you’re looking for non-prescription stress relief, E.M. Forster is your man.
Rocky Rates It
2/5 ★★ Nothing to see here but a long overdue admission