Thursday, October 21, 2010


How can you resist a title like ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE UNDEAD? I couldn't. Tom Stoppard himself might be enticed. But be warned (if the reviews that greeted this clunker upon its very short theatrical release last June didn't do that already): the film, written and directed by Jordan Galland, is the most resistible 85 minutes I've encountered in several years. Nothing, absolutely nothing, in the script or the direction of that script, works. Despite vampires and bloodletting and sex and crazy theater people, every moment is as flat and dry as yesterday's pancake. There is no "tone" to this film. It misses on satire, comedy, horror, drama and everything else, remaining but a clever idea never brought to life by a filmmaker who possesses -- on the basis of what we see here -- no talent for anything at all.

Within this mess, a number of actors who've been better elsewhere are buried alive. Devon Aoki and Jeremy Sisto simply stink, while Ralph Macchio has some good moments but, playing in a vacuum, he can't properly bounce off anything or anyone. Only John Ventimiglia (shown at right), an actor who always comes through, manages to rise above the mess by virtue of sheer intensity. Ventimiglia, as consistently different as he is on-target, tends to be unrecognizable from role to role: Artie Bucco in The Soparanos, an odd cab driver in last year's The Missing Person, an unhelpful bouncer in this season's The Hungry Ghosts). Here, as the vampire author of the play at hand, he is always watchable and emerges with his honor intact. No one else connected to this fiasco gets off as easily. The movie does have "provenance," however: It's would-be star is Jake Hoffman, son of Dustin, and the music is by Sean Lennon, son of John. "What's in a name?" the Bard once asked. Not much, if this film be any example.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Undead should be available some day on DVD, but as of now, I can't ascertain exactly when....

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