11 March 2010


I have a soft spot for Merchant Ivory films (especially Howard's End) so I decided to bump Maurice up on the Netflix queue.  I really wasn't sure what to expect beyond a standard MI historical film....with naked men.  I will also throw in the caveat that I haven't read Maurice by E.M. Forster; I've read A Room with a View and Howard's End, so I am used to Forster's style, and I do know Forster wrote Maurice pre-WWI but it was never published until the 1970s due to the subject matter.

So I was expecting a love story (-ish) about a homosexual relationship that for very obvious reasons must be repressed (because you can get arrested for being a homosexual at that time in Great Britain).  Which is exactly what Maurice is - a film about a forbidden relationship and the protagonists are both male.  It is a very lovely film and all the men are beautifully appointed as to styling which really does lend to the feminized/cloistered college atmosphere where Maurice (James Wilby, who I love in Gosford Park) and Clive (Hugh Grant, in his first major film role) meet.  The relationship between Maurice and Clive is very tender and the parts are very well-played by the actors; the pain and misunderstanding between the couple that occurs when they realize they must act more "straight" is almost palpable.  It did get a little uncomfortable for me toward the end of the film when Maurice begins a relationship with the gamekeeper at Clive's estate; it's a little mismatched as far as age, education, and class so it does seem that Maurice, who really can't supress his sexual orientation the same way Clive can, takes advantage of the gamekeeper.  So it's a little dirty-old-man and teenager, which is a bit icky whatever the genders of the couple.

I really liked Maurice - I must read the book now.


  1. thanks for the review and recommendation. I've been meaning to get to both the book and the movie for years.

  2. I first read Maurice in high school (in 1986)in one sitting from about 8:30 pm to 3:00 am on a school night. Growing up gay in the 80s in a small town in the midwest there were few gay literary avenues known to me, so it was like manna from heaven.

    Unlike Merchant-Ivory's brilliant adaptations of A Room With a View and Howards End, I don't think the film Maurice lives up to the book.

    For another perspective on the elements that made you uncomfortable towards the end, I never felt in either the book or film that there was a predatory element to the Maurice/Scudder relationship. Isn't it Scudder who initiates the first encounter? And in many ways Scudder holds the power in the relationship as is evident in his intimation of blackmail. The class and educational differences certainly pose a challenge for the couple, and I never felt like they would last too long given those circumstances. But I can remember back in high school dating other boys just because they were the only other gay guys I could find. In most cases we had nothing in common and were doomed to failure, but felt like there were no other options. So in many ways I can identify with their situation. Thankfully late 20th century and experiences like mine have given way to the 21st when such challenges have become harder and harder to comprehend even to someone who has lived through it.