Hey folks, Harry here with the first look at Miramax's latest foray into SHAKESPEARE... which... personally if you ask me, has been the biggest mistake that Harvey has made with running Miramax. It seems that Miramax is not as actively pursuing the 'independents' and is instead focusing on producing an entire cinematic rendering of the Bard's creations. Now I love Shakespeare, but... Is Miramax settling in? Or is Harvey just dissatisfied with the Independents from the last 2 years of festivals? It just seems to me, that SONY CLASSICS, USA FILMS and ARTISAN have seemed to more than muscle their way into being the coolest of Indie Distributors. Hopefully, they have a lot of secret weapons coming at us.
This is Big Brother. okay, so tonight at the Tribeca Screening Room, Miramax held what I assume was an early screening of their new Ethan Hawke Hamlet. I assume its an early screening because I haven't heard a thing about it anywhere. The film is an update of the classic Shakespeare tragedy in the style of Romeo and Juliet, but not nearly as bad as Ten Things I Hate About You. It's got Ethan Hawke as Hamlet, Julia Stiles as Ophelia, Kyle McLahlan as Claudius, Sam Shepard as King Hamlet, Steve Zahn as Rosencrantz, Bill Murray as Polonius, Liev Shrieber as Laertes, Casey Affleck as Fortinbras, and Geoffrey Wright was supposed to be the Gravedigger, but it appears he was cut out.
I'll spare talking about how the film begins, becuase we all pretty much know the story. I will say that this is nowhere near as severe an adaptation as Julie Taymor's Titus, although it sure could have used some of that film's energy. I prefer that to this, only because the magnificent visuals in that film and the superb acting elevated a lame play to greatness. Here the "super trendy" updates are for the about half very interesting, and half overly clever. Hamlet is a tortured pretty boy wearing the ensemble from the suit section of every issue of Details magazine. Julia Stiles' Ophelia is one of those new wave hippie/long skirt chicks, who develops photographs in her trendy soho home. The local of Denmark has been changed to the Denmark Corporation, where the CEO has been murdered and the company taken over by his brother Claudius. Everyone lives in the Hotel Elsinore, where much of the action takes place, unless its on the street by flowing fountains or under giant NY Statues. These characters spend a heck of a lot of time in Times Square, and a few more interesting locales around the city would have been nice, besides everyone knows real city dwellers scarcely go there. The cinematography is one very notable standout of the movie, as is the great use of sound mixing throughout.
It kind of upsets me that when this film comes out people will think that it's a rip off of what they did in Baz Luhrman's Romeo and Juliet, but it isn't. They're have been numerous attempts to modernize Shakespeare or to move it to a different locale - MacBeth on Wall Street, Merry Wives of Windsor in the Wild West. The only difference is that until recently, these updates were never made into films. The idea is certainly a good one, as updating the film theoretically could serve to make the story and dialogue more accessible and understandable to new audiences, but this film seems to lack a certain power and presence and passion that the Kenneth Branagh Hamlet had, and no update of the past few years can really even come close to touching the superb retelling of Richard III in Germany.
The acting for the most part is solid however. Ethan Hawke is excellent, along with Julia Stiles. I was upset however, that Bill Murrray's performance I found less than believable.
Overall this film probably won't do much business anyway, since it lacks the romance and the dicaprio that made Romeo and Juliet a hit, and most moviegoers probably won't want to spend the outrageous nine fifty for this experience, but its actually a decent film. I found that the first hour was really very exciting and smoothly paced, and despite its' flaws its definitely worth seeing. I'm curious to see what others think of it, and how the press will react to it. Remember, to thine own self be true.