Monday, February 22, 2010

Review of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Okay. Wow. This is a great film. It has fantastic dialogue, fantastic acting and a very thoughtful plot.

Movies that are faithful adaptations of stage plays have a feeling all their own. The focus of the playwright is dialogue while the focus of the screenwriter is action. When play dialogue makes its way onto film, the effect is curious. Cinematography stops mattering as much. Instead of switching scenes every few minutes, it's every twenty or so. Some might even say that the freedom which film affords over the stage is being lost. As long as you lose yourself in the dialogue, it doesn't matter. Dialogue-driven tension has an intensity that is very different from action-driven tension. Shades of emotion, pauses and powerful language can cause gasps just as easily as any car chase.

This is another film with a twist ending. It is to my shame that when the credits rolled, the subtleties of the ending had gone over my head. I didn't understand and I was forced to re-watch. I should mention that it was a complete pleasure to watch a second time. And yes, I "got it" the next time through.

While the actors were great all around, I think the most groovy were the women-folk. Elizabeth Taylor is loveably awful as Martha, the discontent and obnoxious professor's wife who, despite her protests to the contrary, brays. Sandy Dennis, who I had never heard of before this viewing, surprised me with her performance, starting out little and mousy and becoming loud, drunk and hilarious, especially when she claps her hands in glee, shouting, "Violence! Violence!"

It's truly a movie that approaches perfection for what it is. It achieves its every goal and has absolutely no down side.
18 immoderately consumed alcoholic beverages out of 20