Set in the rarefied world of affluent American expatriate England and Italy between 1903 and 1909, The Golden Bowl tells the story of an extravagantly rich American widower and his sheltered daughter, both of whom marry only to discover that their respective mates are romantically entangled with one another. Adam Verver (Nick Nolte) and his daughter Maggie (Kate Beckinsale) live a privileged life in Europe. Their intimate family circle expands when Maggie decides to marry Prince Amerigo (Jeremy Northam), an impoverished (but authentically aristocratic) descendent of a long line of Italian princes, and invites her beautiful, but impecunious school friend Charlotte (Uma Thurman) to attend their wedding. Amerigo and Charlotte have a secret. They are lovers, forced to separate because they are too poor to marry each other.

Visually this film is fabulous, but at times the characters lack sincere emotion.

Soon after the turn of the 20th Century, Prince Amerigo, Jeremy Northam, who hails from a noble but impoverished Italian family, marries Maggie, Kate Beckinsale, daughter of Adam Verver, Nick Nolte, America`s first billionaire. Before he met Maggie, Amerigo had had an affair with her best friend, Charlotte, Uma Thurman; and when Charlotte marries the widowed Adam, the stage is set for the relationship to continue.

This is the third time the Merchant-Ivory team have tackled a novel by Henry James - previously, they made The Europeans in 1979 and The Bostonians in 1984. Director James Ivory obviously feels a close affinity with James` displaced Americans, being a displaced American himself, but Ivory`s films, always intelligently conceived and handsomely produced, are, on occasion, emotionally hollow, and this is one of those occasions.

The Golden Bowl
looks fabulous, the interiors, costumes, artefacts, they`re all sumptuous. And there are some strong performances. Kate Beckinsale as the wronged wife, Uma Thurman as the determined mistress, Nick Nolte as the Hearst-like billionaire. Unfortunately, Jeremy Northam is mis-cast as the Italian with the roving eye, and makes the crucial character of America a superficial one. There`s a lot to enjoy in The Golden Bowl, but watching it makes you appreciate just how good Jane Campion`s Henry James adaptation, The Portrait Of A Lady, really was.