I am not so much a fan of Shakespeare. I think too much of his work was force fed to me too early in my life to really have an appetite for it as an adult. And, I’ve been wracking my brain for what must literally be minutes now to recall an film adaptation of Shakespeare’s work that I’m fond of. The best I could come up with his Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Of course, I’m not including the looser adaptations like 10 Things I Hate About You, which I’m sure exist in numbers much higher than I’d be comfortable with. Considering this, and pairing it with the fact that I don’t care for Julie Taymor as a director (Freida excluded), her latest film The Tempest, didn’t have much of a chance with me. Although, good lord, get a look at that cast. Helen Mirren, David Strathairn, Chris Cooper, Ben Whishaw, and Djimon Hounsou just to name a few.
While I can respect Ms. Taymor’s attempt, her staging and direction are clearly more at home on, well, a stage. Although that may not even be the case anymore as she has just been fired from overseeing the cursed Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. However, she does have a Tony for direction the Broadway version of The Lion King. Even looking at the picture above, something just doesn’t feel right, as it’s obvioius she had issues translating the story to a big screen production. Were it not for her exceptional actors, the whole farce would have been a complete mess. Fortunately, the thespians mastered Shakespeare’s words so well, it was quickly forgotten the text is four hundred, or four hundred and one years old. Ms. Mirren’s performance is particularly awe-inspiring.
Perhaps Ms. Taymor’s greatest insight was changing the great wizard Prospero from an exiled man with a daughter, to an exiled woman with a daughter. It changes the dynamic of nearly every relationship in the story, adding a less harsh, and more matriarchal tone. This is especially notable, for those that are familiar with the play, in the interaction between Prospero, and her daughter Miranda (Felicity Jones) as Miranda falls in love with the son of one the enemies. I, for one, thought it was brilliant, and have no desire to see anyone other than Mirren as Prospero again.
There some pleasing moments, some flashes of brilliance, but these are few and far between. The slogging through the rest of the film just doesn’t feel worth it, as The Tempest comes off mostly boring, and a bit awkward.