Adapted for the screen from Edith Wharton's much-loved novel of the same name, House of Mirth follows the fortunes -- or lack thereof -- of Lily Bart, an ambitious but financially imperiled young woman looking for a rich husband in early 20th century New York. The story opens as Lily (Gillian Anderson) takes tea at the apartment of Lawrence Selden (Eric Stoltz), a young bachelor lawyer to whom Lily is attracted but cannot marry because he is not wealthy enough for her liking. Lily stops at Selden's apartment en route to Bellomont, where she is planning to husband-hunt at the country home of shifty businessman Gus Trenor (Dan Aykroyd) and his wife. Gus agrees to invest some money for Lily, but his intentions toward her quickly turn carnal, and when she rebuffs his advances, she finds herself $9,000 in debt. Help arrives in the form of financier Sim Rosedale (Anthony LaPaglia), who extends to Lily a businesslike proposition of marriage; though she is tempted, Lily refuses his offer because he is nouveau riche rather than blueblood society. Soldiering on, Lily journeys to the Mediterranean, where she has been invited to the home of Bertha Dorset (Laura Linney), an alpha socialite who schemes to use Lily as an unwitting decoy for an affair under the nose of her husband George (Terry Kinney). When the trip starts to go bad, George tells Lily that he wants to divorce the slatternly Bertha, but needs some solid proof of her affairs in order to do so. Lily knows that one of Bertha's previous lovers was Selden, but her loyalty to him prevents her from speaking up to George. So, still in debt to Gus and given only a paltry inheritance by her aunt (Eleanor Bron), Lily endures a slew of unsuccessful jobs and, tragically, gradually sinks into the mire of genteel poverty. Directed by Terence Davies, House of Mirth premiered at the 2000 Locarno Film Festival.
by Rebecca Flint Marx synopsis