This deploys body doubles, mostly avoids anything more explicit than a kiss, and is unlikely to foment paedophile activity, especially as it goes out of its way to stress the wretched consequences of Humbert Humbert's poisoned/poisonous infatuation with teenage nymphet Lo. One might, perhaps, concede that it's so concerned to make us understand Humbert at the same time as recognising his guilt that we learn little of Lolita's feelings, but the same is essentially true of Nabokov's novel. Moreover, the acting is spot on: Swain is excellent as Lo; Irons suitably impassioned, befuddled and tormented as Humbert; Griffith well cast as Charlotte Haze; and Langella's Quilty infinitely preferable to Peter Sellers' grandstanding in the Kubrick version. If the film has a problem, it's that its moral circumspection renders it a touch dull. Here, what humour there is consists largely of clumsy slapstick; any irony is generally heavy-handed; and the few moments of more florid mise-en-scène still evoke the fast-and-flashy aesthetic of an ads director. Nevertheless, the movie is neither sensationalist nor unintelligent, and some may even find the performances finally achieve a genuine poignancy.
Cast and crew
Erin J Dean