The taped crusaders
Three characters wage a psychological war over their intertwined past and a taped conversation in the masterfully intense "Tape" by playwright Stephen Belber and directed by Richard Linklater.
By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
Sometimes you can spot a great movie a mile away.
I mean, how can you possibly stick Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, and Uma Thurman in a grungy motel room for 86 minutes and not expect greatness?
|Directed by: Richard Linklater.|
Written by: Stephen Belber.
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, Uma Thurman.
Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
Well, some might consider great to be too strong a word for this highly
competent adaptation of the original three-character play by Stephen Belber (author of "The Laramie Project" and "Finally," but
"Tape" is terrific stuff. It's talky but not, surprisingly, stagy, and it
offers up wonderful performances from its three leads (even Leonard, whom
I've never much cared for before). Leonard (whom you might still remember
from "Dead Poets Society"), it turns out, more than holds his own against
Hawke, who plays a pot-smoking, beer-guzzling, coke-sniffing loser, and
Thurman, playing said loser's former high school girlfriend.
But there's more to this triangle, this love triangle, than that, as
Belber's dynamic dialogue, and "Slacker" director Richard Linklater's claustrophobic
camerawork, draw us in.
The film was shot on digital video over a one-week period in New York City
following a month of rehearsals, so the result is a grainy, rough-and-ready
affair in which the low light and even lower budget enhance the drama one
hundredfold. Vince (Hawke), a volunteer firefighter and small-time drug
dealer is in town (Lansing, Michigan) to hook up with his high school buddy
Jon (Leonard) who's also in town for a local film festival where his
directorial debut is premiering. After a few beers and some typically
macho exchanges, the tone turns darker as Vince brings up the subject of
Amy (Thurman). Formerly Vince's girlfriend, Amy had a fling with Jon on
the last day of school and it soon becomes clear that Vince's sole reason
for inviting his best friend over is to coax a confession out of him, a
confession that winds up on audio tape (hence the title). To make matters
worse, not only is Amy in town (she's Lansing's assistant D.A. these days)
but Vince has asked her over too with the intent of having her be on the
receiving end of Jon's disturbing admission.
The verbal sparring between the leads is fast and credible; Hawke and
Leonard are equally adept at playing frustration off aggression, and
vice-versa. The motel room setting the camera never once ventures
outdoors is never stifling nor constricting, except when it needs to be.
Linklater, who made the still-in-theaters "Waking Life" (another talky
piece but one of completely different dimensions), skillfully shoots his
drama in such a way that the film never feels static; the piece progresses
naturally, earnestly, and when questions come into play, there's a real
sense of disquiet about it all, as notions of friendship and what
constitutes coercion are brought to the fore. It twists and turns
Thurman isn't in the film as much as her male co-stars, but by the time she
makes her graceful entrance we've learned so much about her, and her
situation from ten years ago, that one gesture, one seemingly innocent
"Hello Jon" is laced with portent.
"Tape" just goes to prove what a talented filmmaker can do with limited
resources if his words are good and his performers are good and his overall
vision is, well, great. If you miss this one in theaters, grab a
Rolling Rock, strip down to your boxers, and watch this one on tape.
|DECEMBER 4, 2001|
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Tape from dorothea, Jul 24, 2002
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