The Tempest

19 Dec

Title: The Tempest
Year:
2010
Director:
Julie Taymor
Writer:
Julie Taymor, based on the play by William Shakespeare
Starring:
Helen Mirren, Djimon Hounsou, Russell Brand, Alfred Molina, Chris Cooper, Felicity Jones, Reeve Carney, Alan Cumming, David Strathairn, Ben Whishaw, Tom Conti
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, some nudity, suggestive content and scary images
Runtime:
110 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
6.8
Rotten Tomatoes:
24%

 

This wasn’t an exceptional film, and I’ve been told by a few people that they actually thought it really sucked. My feelings toward it weren’t nearly as harsh, I enjoyed parts of it, mostly because I’ve always been a fan of Julie Taymor’s directing style, but I guess that if you don’t share that love with me The Tempest may indeed result to be a terribly off-putting experience.

For those of you who don’t know exactly who Ms. Taymor is, she’s the director of only three past films, all which have a very marked stamp on them, those three being: Titus, her debut and first foray into Shakespeare, then would come Frida in 2002, and finally the Beatles-inspired, and a personal favorite of mine, Across the Universe in 2007.

Those are all very polarizing films, her most widely accepted effort was obviously Frida which won 2 Oscars (for Make-Up and Original Score) and was nominated for four others, but her films many times seem to have that love-them-or-hate-them effect to some degree or another. And I always find myself liking them, the costume and set design are always top notch, in fact all three of her films have scored a Best Costume Design Oscar nomination, and they’re just these large scale grand spectacles that look really neat in a big screen.

The Tempest, for its part, is nowhere close to being her best film, that to me would certainly be Across the Universe, which I have ranked as the 40th best of all last decade, but this one still looks quite nifty, the costumes especially are still impeccable as are the sets and every other detail here, but in the end it just isn’t the great. As classic and timeless as the source play by Shakespeare may be, and as oustanding as the cast Ms. Taymor gathered can be, this one still feels a bit too ambitious, even for her, and the amount of songs that intercede the action here don’t feel as great.

The one big and significant change Ms. Taymor made to the original play, which is believed to have been the last Shakespeare wrote alone, was obviously changing the sex of the main character to a female, from Prospero to Prospera, so that the amazing Helen Mirren could step into the role. And that alteration may just be the best thing she could have done for this film, though to be fair Ms. Mirren could probably play Popeye in a live-action adaptation and she’d probably find a way to somehow make it work, she’s just that good.

But what didn’t work so well for me in here was the fact that if you read the play you’ll see that Shakespeare dealt quite a bit with the humanity behind the actions in this film, which are all done with magic. That was what was so poetic about the play, it wasn’t just about magic and spells and curses and what not, it was about mortality and life. In the film those themes are obviously touched upon, but Ms. Taymor is too busy paying attention to the huge magic side of it, which I must say was done really well, to pay much detail to the more human side of it, and that takes a lot away from this film.

And Ms. Mirren isn’t the only amazing thespian involved here, there’s Djimon Hounson as the enraged Caliban, the original inhabitant of the island. There are Russell Brand and Alfred Molina, making for a very entertaining duo as they tackle Stephano and Trinculo, two drunks who give booze to Caliban. Felicity Jones plays Miranda, the beautiful daughter of Prospera. And a bunch of other great actors like David Strathairn and Alan Cumming are also here doing their usual great jobs.

I say all this to illustrate just how loaded with talent this film was, and for the most part they make it all work wonderfully fine, and they are all terrific at reading Shakespeare, but as a whole it doesn’t work. I guess it has quite a lot to do with Ms. Taymor, unfortunately, her ambition finally did her in, as it was bound to, because she obviously loves the material, but by shooting too damn high and concentrating on the magic to make everything happen, instead of on the story to make the magic happens, she delivers a film that while still perfectly decent was not as good as it could have potential been. Though I’ll defintiely still look forward to whatever she does next.

Grade: B-

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