Picks and Pans Review: Ethan Frome

updated 03/15/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/15/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

Liam Neeson, Joan Allen, Patricia Arquette

There's never been so much snow in one single movie. We're talking big fluffy piles of it stretching out as far as the screen extends, crunching like Cracker Jacks when people walk on it and sticking wetly to cheeks and hair. This is great-looking and sounding snow, but a whole lotta snow does not a movie make. And snow is about all Ethan Frome has going for it.

The rest of the movie, a well-intentioned adaptation of Edith Wharton's powerful novella about a 19th-century New England farmer's affair with a serving girl hired to help his invalid wife, just melts away in the tedium brought on by its let's-underline-all-the-symbolism script.

Neeson, the thinking woman's hunk from Husbands and Wives and Leap of Faith, does his best to suggest the farmer's sudden grasp for happiness, but he can't overcome British director John Madden's sluggish pacing. And who told him to limp like that? In the opening and closing scones of the movie, Neeson seems to be dragging an anvil with his bad leg. As for Arquette (younger sister of Rosanna), she gets better as the movie goes along, but seems more the bovine dolt than the pitiable innocent. Allen, playing the invalid wife, comes off best, ably conveying the character's hypochondria and dashed dreams. (PG)

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