Lolita (1962)

DVD Cover (Warner Brother)
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Ranked #1,212
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Connections: Lolita

Humbert Humbert, a divorced British professor of French literature, travels to small-town America for a teaching position. He allows himself to be swept into a relationship with Charlotte Haze, his widowed and sexually famished landlady, whom he marries in order that he might pursue the woman's 14-year-old flirtatious daughter, Lolita, with whom he has fallen hopelessly in love, but whose affections shall be thwarted by a devious trickster named Clare Quilty. --IMDb
James Mason
James Mason
Shelley Winters
Shelley Winters
Sue Lyon
Sue Lyon
Gary Cockrell
Gary Cockrell
Jerry Stovin
Jerry Stovin
Review by Chad
Added: September 15, 2004
We open up the movie with Humbert Humbert (James Mason) walking around in a house that is quite wrecked and filthy. He calls out for Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers) to come out, and Clare pulls himself out from underneath a sheet on a chair, quite drunk. They have a bit of a discussion, and Humbert ends up killing Clare via multiple gunshots. The movie then jumps back to four years earlier, and Humbert is looking for a place to rent while he works on some novels he's writing. He comes upon a lady named Charlotte Haze (Shelley Winters) who just so happens to have a room for rent, and Humbert is a bit skeptical about taking it due to the way Charlotte is acting and such. His skepticism is soon killed off, however, when he sees Charlotte's 12-15 year old daughter Lolita Haze (Sue Lyon). (In the novel, she's twelve. In the movie, she's either fourteen or fifteen, depending on which description you believe... the movie itself doesn't actually say). Regardless, she's well underage, but Humbert is quite attracted to her. He decides to move in, and slowly becomes more and more obsessed with Lolita, while becoming more and more irritated with her mother Charlotte. The situation gets quite nasty, however, when Charlotte decides to send Lolita off to a girls camp for the summer, meaning that Humbert won't be able to see her at all for that time. While Lolita is away, Humbert decides to marry Charlotte so that he can be around Lolita for the rest of his life, but things take a number of twists along the way...

The storyline here takes a bit of time to get going, as the first twenty minutes or so are flat-out boring. We're treated to an extended dance scene, some chit-chat, and some other things that really didn't do too much for me. However, after those first few scenes are out of the way, things get quite interesting and stay that way for the rest of the film. There's a number of plot-twists along the way, none of which seemed to be thrown in for pure shock value or any such nonsense; each one fit the storyline perfectly and seemed quite natural after you saw them, but you most likely wouldn't see them coming on your first viewing of this. Besides the aforementioned opening slowness, the only storyline problems I had here was the way the ending was shown at the beginning of the film, instead of at the end where it belonged. Now, I'm all for a director doing things in a unique fashion, but this was definitely a case where the director's vision didn't pay out as well as he might have intended. The opening / ending scene would have made a great finale to the film, but instead, it opens the movie and leaves the audience confused as to what's going on, while the way they handled the flashback to the beginning / end sequence seemed a bit flat. It definitely lost the impact it could have had, which was a bit of a shame. I'm sure that there's a large number of people who may agree with the way the director handled this ending, but personally, I thought it was done wrong. But hey, I'm just some kid writing a review and not a legendary director, so what do I know. On the plus-side, however, things are kept interesting throughout as I've already mentioned, and there was some great usage of subtle jokes and lines spread out amongst the running-time; none of which seem out of place, but definitely bring some nice laughs to the scene. In one scene, for example, Lolita was talking about a man named Dick, and she says "Dick's very sweet." Nothing wrong with the statement itself, but the look she gives whilst delivering the line definitely implies that that statement has a double meaning to it, which pulled a laugh from your faithless reviewer. There's a number of things such as that spread throughout the film, and most are just as good.

On the acting front, everyone here plays their roles perfectly. Thank goodness that there was a time where you had to actually have talent to get a part in a Hollywood movie. James Mason plays Humbert, and is flawless in the many character transitions; he's just as believable as the average Joe in the beginning as he is as the jealous and possessive man in the rest of the film, and he doesn't do a bad job at all with the other phases of the character, which I won't reveal for fear of spoilers. Shelley Winters plays his wonderful wife Charlotte, and also does a great job with the role of the annoying burden of a wife, without being blatantly obvious about how the character is supposed to be reacted to. There's no lines that are delivered for the sole sake of telling the audience that she's not the best person in the world, she merely throws out lines that would be expected from any wife / mother. It's the delivery and mannerisms of Shelley that makes the character despised, and that's an art that seems to be all but lost in today's films. Of course, there's Sue Lyon as Lolita, the star of the show. While she comes off as being a bit bland in her first few scenes (thanks in no part to the sixties slang lines she's repeatedly throwing out), she starts to put out a great performance after returning from the girls camp, and never drops back down to the bland level. There's also a solid cast of supporting characters and bit-parts, as even the people who only drop a few lines or have a minute or two of screen-time do an excellent job in their parts.

Overall, an excellent film that I'd recommend to just about anyone who'd be interested in a bizarre love story. Even though the running time on this is two and a half hours, I never caught myself checking the remaining time in hopes that it was almost over, which is a huge testament given my normal taste in movie genres. 10/10 from myself.
bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 05/03/2006, 03:00 PM
Absolutely riveting and absorbing picture -- one of Kubrick's best. The mood and the cinematography are sublime and reminded me a lot of some of Terrence Malick's work. Not to be missed. 10/10.
Tristan #2: Tristan - added 04/11/2007, 03:39 PM
This was my first experience with Peter Sellers, and I was not disappointed. His scene on the patio talking to the professor was absolutely brilliant. One of Kubrick's finest movies.
Shakes #3: Shakes - added 01/20/2009, 10:05 AM
^^ Agreed. 10/10
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