10 November 2014

The Tempest (Taymor)


The Tempest 2010
  • Director: Julie Taymor
  • Based on the play by William Shakespeare
  • Cast: Helen Mirren, Ben Whishaw, Felicity Jones, Djimoun Hounsou, David Strathairn, Reeve Carney, Tom Conti, Chris Cooper, Alan Cumming, Russell Brand, Alfred Molina
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Helen Mirren  Brighton Rock, The Queen, Prime Suspect, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Calendar Girls, Gosford Park, Last Orders, The Pledge, Some Mother’s Son, The Madness of King George. The Mosquito Coast, Cymbeline, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Excalibur, As You Like It, Oh Lucky Man
    • Ben Whishaw – I’m Not There
    • Felicity Jones – The Invisible Woman
    • Djimoun Hounsou – Blood Diamond, The Island, Gladiator, Amistad
    • David Strathairn – Good Night and Good Luck, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, LA Confidential, Mother Night, Dolores Claiborne, A League of Their Own, Stars and Bars, Matewan, Silkwood
    • Reeve Carney – Snow Falling on Cedars
    • Tom Conti – The Dark Knight Rises, Derailed, Friends, Shirley Valentine
    • Chris Cooper – My House in Umbria, Adaption, The Bourne Identity, American Beauty, Matewan
    • Alan Cumming – Get Carter, Third Rock from the Sun, Titus, Eyes Wide Shut, Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion
    • Russell Brand – only in interviews
    • Alfred Molina – An Education, As You Like It, Frida, Chocolat, Prick Up Your Ears
  • Why? Shakespeare
  • Seen:  November 8, 2014
Much of the film captures the power of the play.  The gender switch from Prospero to Prospera works well in the expert hands of Helen Mirren who can play anything and who brings the despairing aspect of the character into fine expression.  There are fine moments from all of the actors.  Caliban is at times a bit too melodramatic but Hounsou also brings out the pathos in the character’s vicious rebellion.  Ariel has poignant moments in all his flitting and flying but a lot of his role is played more by special effects than his acting.  This is a weakness; nevertheless the visual effect is strong as it is throughout the film.
The two young lovers are too wimpy. True, Shakespeare’s young lovers usually are, but do they have to be quite so sweet and dewy-eyed?  Russell Brand as Trinculo, however, is an inspired choice, Alfred Molina is always enjoyable to watch as a buffoon and Chris Cooper as villain works well.
Taymor makes good use of Hawaii’s dramatic island seascapes as well as the touch of heavy rock and techno music.  The sweep through the Universe instead of a visit from the Greek goddesses for the young newlyweds is also a good choice.
By far the best film version of The Tempest (I’m not including the filmed version of the Globe production from 2013; we saw that on stage at the Globe and it is the best ever but I don’t review filmed stage productions on this blog as a rule), this surpasses expectations created by the critics’ cool reaction, but in fact my reaction is just a bit cool too. Something – I don’t know what – is lacking and it doesn’t grip me as deeply as Taymor’s other Shakespeare film Titus. One problem is that though the Coda song is nicely sung it really is Prospero’s/Prospera’s final and very eloquent soliloquy and Helen Mirren should not have been deprived of it.
But it’s a fine film.

4 * of 5


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