Not everyone is a huge fan of Shakespeare's The Tempest (in the way people are fond of King Lear for instance), but when Julie Taymor directed the most recent film version, it created a whole other tempest for writer Shlomo Schwartzberg.
|Helen Mirren and Felicity Jones in The Tempest|
|Chris Cooper and Alan Cumming|
|Director Julie Taymor|
The Tempest is an annoying film that rarely comes to cinematic life and does not do justice to Shakespeare’s rich dialogue. Even in The Tempest, his words display their usual richness, best exemplified in the famous quote, "such stuff as dreams are made on." In Taymor’s hands, however, most of them fail to land gently on the viewers’ ears, and the rest are drowned under the film’s pulsating (and anachronistic) hard rock/horror movie score, laid on with a trowel by Eliot Goldenthal (Catch Me If You Can). Goldenthal is Taymor’s real life partner, and creates the music for all her movies.
|Russell Brand, Alfred Molina, and Djimon Hounsou|
The only blessing of this movie is that it’s not as risible as Across the Universe (2007), Taymor's worst film and the one where she was allowed to give free rein to her imagination. In it, she conjured up an idiotic and embarrassingly literal interpretation of the Beatles’ terrific music which overlaid a really dumb portrait of ‘60s America. The Tempest, like Titus and Frida (2002), her bland take on artist Frida Khalo, is at least governed by some narrative and/or historical structure, which forces her to tone down her penchant for florid excess. Taymor may very well be a great stage director – I’ve only ever heard good things about her direction of The Lion King – but theatre is not cinema and The Tempest is just further proof that she is distinctly unsuited to moviemaking.
- originally published on December 16, 2010 in Critics at Large.