Unlike Woolf's novel, which ends in 1928, Potter closes her film in the 1990s with Orlando having a daughter and losing her property, but keeping her independence. She becomes a (shudder) writer, dresses in leather, refuses to compromise with editor-producer types (artistic integrity and all that), and cruises London on a motorcycle, the little one in a sidecar. In Woolf's day, the novel's ending made an important feminist statement; updated and translated to screen, the denouement comes off as somewhat transparent, even silly.
Still, audacious movies that address adult themes in an original fashion are in short supply these days. You hate to knock one when it comes along. Orlando is such a film and it places Sally Potter among the front ranks of modern directors. Tilda Swinton's performance is a career-maker, despite her unconvincing appearance as a man. And cinematographer Alexei Rodionov's crackerjack camera work, especially during the frozen Thames scenes (which were actually shot in St. Petersburg), is the stuff of greatness. Moviegoers could do a lot worse for their $6.50.