16 posts categorized "Literary Adaptation"

October 22, 2018

OPHELIA

OpheliaAlthough hindered by a lack of variety in its pacing, this fragrant imagining of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” as lived through the being of Hamlet’s love interest Ophelia, carries significant dramatic weight. There are plenty of juicy surprises to savor along the way.

Naomi Watts and Clive Owen share every bit as much chemistry here (Watts as Queen Gertrude and Owen as the incoming King Claudius), as they did in Tom Tykwer’s “The International” back in 2009. Talk about a winning duo, Owen and Watts are as good as it gets.

Ophleia

What Tom Stoppard did for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with his 1967 post-modern play (“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”), young adult novelist Lisa Klein has done for a beguiling character whose personal tale of woe in the Middle Ages clearly deserves its own telling. Semi Chellas’s script adaptation flirts with the intrigue of Shakespeare’s language with a refreshing sense of modern English. The dialogue rings like a bell.

OPHELIA

Enter director Claire McCarthy (“The Waiting City”) to helm a brilliant cast in the service of the romantic period drama at hand. Daisy Ridley inhabits Ophelia with an inspired canniness and earthly grounding that places her as an equal to George MacKay’s Prince Hamlet. For once we see Hamlet as the teenage boy that Shakespeare intended. MacKay’s youth informs the role with the energy and naïveté that supports his hot tempered nature.  

For her part, Ophelia keeps a level head in the face of much cruelty and abuses of power that attack her wherever she turns. If the movie resonates with current social and political conditions in America and abroad then so much the better for the audience to contemplate the story’s many implications.    

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The filmmakers do a good job of isolating the action within the boundaries of Elsinore’s remote mountain top village where there is truly “something rotten in Denmark.” We get the contrast of the gritty atmosphere outside the castle walls where civility dares not frequent without reliable accompaniment. Although ostensibly made on a considerably smaller budget than anything Hollywood produces, David Warren’s production designs provide an authentic backdrop to the action.

Ophelia

The incestuous nature of the relationship between Hamlet’s power-hungry uncle Claudius and Gertrude is clarified in an appropriately furtive scene that Ophelia witnesses through a window. One of this film's joys is the way characters eavesdrop or spy on others. Suspense and mystery attend violent outbursts, frequently involving swords.

Naomi Watts savors her dual role as the witch Mechtild who Ophelia visits to procure drugs for the Queen. Still, you can help but wish that Watts had taken advantage of the opportunity to chew the scenery more than she does.     

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Daisy Ridley’s Ophelia invokes strains of Kiera Knightly’s feisty naturalism even if only for similar facial expressions the two actresses share. “Ophelia” is a refreshing addition to the bold sub-genre of Shakespeare-inspired plays and films that weave in and around the prolific English playwright’s esteemed works. The movie accomplishes that most coveted of dramatic goals of leaving the audience wanting more. So be it, let’s more of these female-centric genre explorations; they are a dozen times more compelling than the Star Wars films that squander the talents of such compelling actresses as Daisy Ridley.

OPHELIA

Rated PG. 114 mins.

Three Stars

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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July 31, 2017

AMERICAN PSYCHO — CLASSIC FILM PICK

American_psycho“American Psycho” (made at the turn of the 21st century) is a significant connecting link between the ruthless culture of corporate greed revealed in Oliver Stone’s seminal film “Wall Street” and the ascendency of Donald Trump to the throne of United States President.

It’s notable that Stone was temporarily slated to direct “American Psycho,” with Leonardo DiCaprio attached to play the lead, before Mary Harron won the gig with her more perfect casting choice of Christian Bale as the soulless Wall Street narcissist Patrick Bateman.

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Coincidentally, “American Psycho” is set in 1987, the same year that “Wall Street” was released on elite American males all to ready to mistake the film’s satire for economic and political doctrine.

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With his perfect swimmer’s bod, Patrick Bateman masks his crippling inferiority complex with money and all of its commercially induced trappings. Patrick is a misogynist bully leaked from Donald Trump’s putrid mold.

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Something as simple as looking at the (superior) business card designs of his three-piece-suit-wearing Wall Street pals sends our obsessively groomed metrosexual Trump-admirer into a mental breakdown that makes up the meat of the movie. Patrick’s affinity for inane pop music allows Harron to ingeniously show the character’s fractured relationship with society and with his own identity. Before attacking his [perceived] biggest rival Paul Allen (Jared Leto) with an axe, Patrick allows himself some editorial commentary in the form of a running dialogue with himself that could just as well be memorized lines from an unnamed music critic’s review.  

American Psycho

“He’s been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far more bitter, cynical sense of humor.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Distorting reality is the name of the game. “Facts do not matter. Facts do not exist. Reality is a liar, and information is your enemy.” That quote, taken from a Zach Schonfeld piece for Newsweek about how Donald Trump distorts reality, exquisitely pinpoints the mindset of “American Psycho’s” anti-hero Patrick Bateman (Bale).

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More than anything, entitled Patrick wants to “fit in,” namely by inflicting his inflated sense of status on all people he comes in contact with. “His father practically owns the company” he works for. Bateman’s name is an obvious nod to Norman Bates of Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” Like Norman Bates, Patrick Bateman suffers from a dissociative identity disorder. At times he introduces himself as Pat, or as his perceived rival Paul Allen when opportunity serves him. He gets mistaken for his similarly blank-personality Wall Street associates.

Our reliably unreliable narrator/anti-hero isn’t a human being, he is a product, a false and invisible product of all that is wrong with America.

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Bale’s disconnected persona keeps a running inner dialogue of political correctness that enables him to speak up for defending Jews when a colleague makes an anti-Semitic remark. But deep down Patrick wants to humiliate, mutilate, and kill minorities and women in the most brutal ways imaginable.

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Harron weaves feminist commentary through two female victims of Bateman’s deep seeded self-hatred. His secretary Jean (Chloë Sevigny) and Christie (Cara Seymour), a street-walker prostitute, serve as opposite sides of the same oppressed female coin. The two women also represent the film’s true protagonists, allowing the audience to empathize in a narrative landscape seemingly devoid of compassion.

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Co-screenwriter/director Harron composes the film with Hitchcock-inspired compositions to charge the script’s paper-dry wit with a palpable combination of pulsing suspense and pitch black comedy. Like all great films, “American Psycho” is one you can discover something new in regardless of how many times you’ve seen it.

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Rated R. 102 mins. 

5 Stars

Mike picked up INDUSTRIAL ARTS POWER TOOLS IPA for our discussion of Mary Harron's unforgettable adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis's AMERICAN PSYCHO. Pull a chair up to the banquet table and join us for one hell of a feast for one hell of a movie!

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American-psycho-facts

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Your generosity helps keep the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

July 09, 2015

MR. HOLMES

Mr. Holmes Thirty-five years after retiring from his career as the literary world's most illustrious sleuth, a 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) spends his twilight years keeping bees in a remote country house overlooking the White Cliffs of Dover. It's 1947 and World War II is over, but its wounds are still fresh. Mr. Holmes keeps an arm’s distance from his housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney), but can’t resist the intellectual curiosity of her energetic 10-year-old son Roger (Milo Parker). Perhaps Roger is fated to become a detective.

Such is the set-up for director Bill Condon’s version of Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel (“A Slight Trick of the Mind”). Condon, who directed McKellen in the Oscar-winning “Gods and Monsters,” correctly keeps the focus on his main character.

Missing are most of the famous affectations that we associate with Sherlock Holmes. It’s revealed that Sherlock smoked cigars rather than a pipe and wore a top hat rather than the deerstalker cap written about in novels, which Mr. Holmes attributes to his deceased partner John Watson as the books’ author.

Mr-HolmesThe old man does, however, walk with a cane. The ravages of senility are taking a toll on Holmes’s memory in spite of brain-healing experiments with Royal Jelly and Prickly Ash, a citrus shrub he has recently traveled to Japan to procure. Reminded of the last case he worked on, the one that sent him into retirement, Holmes now searches his memory for what he did wrong. His is a personal journey of closure.

Roger peppers his elderly mentor with questions about the case, which involved a distressed husband’s attempts to discover the truth about his depressed wife’s activities with a suspicious woman who teaches her to play a glass harmonica. Forgery and poison play into the mystery.

Surprisingly, the usually reliable Laura Linney is off her game, or more accurately miscast, in a role that could have been elevated in the hands of a capable British actress; think Marion Bailey (“Mr. Turner”). Aside from her wandering accent, Linney falls short during a particularly emotional sequence that doesn’t quite gel.

Mckellen-mr.holmesOf all the actors who have played Sherlock Holmes on the screen over the many decades since the first silent-era adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic character in 1916, Ian McKellen’s incarnation of the fictional London detective will go down in history as the most enjoyable. At 76 the infinitely gifted actor has aged like a fine wine.

Even if “Mr. Holmes” is not much more than a picturesque showcase for the actor to mesmerize us once again, that is enough. So perfect are McKellen’s tender gestures and graceful expressions that regardless of this film’s less-than-ideal narrative aspects, we are rapt with delight at the privilege of witnessing his performance. There’s an old expression that one could listen to a gifted actor “read from a phone book” because he or she is so talented. Certainly, that is the case with Ian McKellen.

Holmes

Rated PG. 104 mins.

4 Stars

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Every bit helps!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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