Posts Tagged ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’


Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 10.50.05 AMRichard’s “Canada AM” reviews for talking teddy bear comedy “Ted 2,” the hero dog movie “Max” and “The Overnight” with host Jeff Hutcheson.

Watch the whole thing HERE!

THE OVERNIGHT: 3 ½ STARS. “smart, insightful & very uncomfortable film.”

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 9.38.27 AM“The Overnight” is a smart, insightful but most of all, very uncomfortable film.

The story begins when Emily (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Adam Scott), a married coupled transplanted from Seattle to Los Angeles for work, meet Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), an outgoing man who chats them up in a local park. Their kids hit it off so Kurt invites the couple over for pizzas and wine with his wife Charlotte (Judith Godreche). Eager to make friends, Emilia and Alex accept and enter a world ripe with sexual tension, voyeurism, skinny-dipping and self confession. What begins as a dinner party quickly erupts into part drug and drink binge, part therapy session. “This is California,” says the slightly naïve Adam, “maybe this is what dinner parties are like here.”

On the surface “The Overnight” is simply about that moment when, as they say in the film, the party turns from freewheeling California vibe to swinger vibe but that doesn’t do the story justice. That’s the Cole’s Notes version of the story but the actual tale is much more interesting.

This is a parlour show where most of the action takes place in one place. Think “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?” In this case the bulk the story happens in Kurt and Charlotte’s upscale home as the older, more jaded couple wile away the hours, breaking down Emily and Adam’s inhibitions while revealing their own martial issues and weaknesses. It’s a power struggle with a constantly shifting dynamic that turns into a guessing game as to what, exactly, is going on. It is that ambiguity that propels the action forward.

Good casting keeps things interesting—Schwartzman is smarmy perfection—and at just 80 minutes “The Overnight” is the right length for a cat and mouse story. Any longer and this story of sexual frustration might have become frustrating, but director Patrick Brice brings the story to an end before the anxiety of the situation becomes too uncomfortable for the audience.

Canada AM: Loss of a comedy legend: Mike Nichols dies at 83

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 2.45.39 PMRichard’s “Canada AM” look at the life and career of Mike Nichols.

Watch the whole thing HERE!

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY: 3 ½ STARS. “powerhouse work from Streep and Roberts.”

osage-resize_wide-bd382d7396888cc783451ac4a395ac5f758afff4-s6-c30And you thought your family get-togethers were weird.

Take the worst family dinner party ever, times it by infinity and you can begin to imagine the discomfort and distress at the Weston clan table. “August: Osage County,” the all star remounting of Tracey Letts’s hit Broadway play never met a disparaging remark it couldn’t place in the mouth of one of its mean-spirited diners.

The film reunites the Weston sisters, Barbara (Julia Roberts), Karen (Juliette Lewis) and Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) along with soon-to-be ex-husbands, grumpy granddaughters and secret lovers, with their pill-popping mommy dearest Violet (Meryl Streep). They come together when Dad (Sam Shepard) goes missing, but his disappearance is simply a backdrop to bring this desperate group of people together and allow them to wallow in their dysfunction.

“August: Osage County” is ram-packed with unlikeable characters played by likeable actors. There’s more baggage on display here than at any airport carousel and while it is occasionally difficult to buy in to the level of petty behavior displayed by Violet and her prey, the vindictive dialogue often does sound delicious rolling off the tongues of these actors.

A case in point is the dinner scene. It features the best example of ensemble acting on screen this year, giving everyone around the crowded table a chance to show what they can do. Chris Cooper’s rambling, extended saying-of-grace is worth the price of admission, but the powerhouse back-and-forth between Streep and Roberts is the main attraction.

Roberts hasn’t had a juicy role like this in years. Her Barbara is a bit of an enigma. She’s a jumble of mixed, complicated emotions, capable of both great kindness and compassion but seems only to express herself through tough love. When she explodes she’s letting loose a lifetime of rage stemming from her mother’s mistreatment.

When they go head-to-head it is the clash of the titans and an unforgettable scene.

Streep is shrill, and purposefully so, but it is far from a one note performances. For instance a porch swing monologue shows her mastery of the form. What could have been an interminable acting class monologue is transformed into an epic bit of storytelling with more range and character development in the five minutes it takes to play out than most movies contain in their entire running time.

“August: Osage County” sometimes feels like you’re watching “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” with all the tender parts removed. Unhappy people abound and so do inappropriate situations to the point where it becomes hard to imagine that this much dysfunction could be squeezed into one story, but director John Wells holds steady, creating a setting where this kind of behavior can thrive.

Only a misplaced smile in the film’s closing minute feels out of place. It’s an attempt at a Tinsel Town feel good moment in a film that has been uncompromising it its world view up until a final, unnecessary Hollywood touch.

Tracy Letts: the hyphenate actor-writer-producer-Pulitzer-Prize-winner

Variety Awards Studio - Day 2

By Richard Crouse In Focus – Metro Canada

Hollywood is full of hyphenates, the kind of people who introduce themselves as a model-actor-writer-waiter-personal-trainer-dog-walker.

Lately there is one Tinsel Town citizen, however, who has actually earned every word in his hyphenated title.

Tracy Letts is an actor-writer-producer-Pulitzer-Prize-winner who is going to have to get longer business cards if he gets any more successful. You may not recognize the name unless you pay attention to the end credits of Homeland (he plays Senator Andrew Lockhart on the popular show) or if you know who won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

He’s a multi-talent with a shelf of awards, some heavyweight acting credits and a new movie screenplay on his resume.

His latest project, the script for August: Osage County, puts words into the mouths of some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. The film brings together the Weston sisters, Barbara (Julia Roberts), Karen (Juliette Lewis) and Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) with their pill-popping mommy-dearest Violet (Meryl Streep).

As a writer Letts says inspiration came from Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner and Jim Thompson, which might explain the dark vein that runs through his work.

How twisted are his plays? “Everybody in Tracy’s stories gets naked or dead,” says his mom, author Billie Letts.

Tracy jokingly says that his mother is “a liar” for saying that, pointing out that “not all of the people in my plays wind up naked or dead.”

Still there is no denying that his screenplay for Killer Joe, the 2011 Matthew McConaughey thriller, is written with what Roger Ebert called, “merciless black humor.” The story of a corrupt cop and a bad insurance claim earned critical praise even if the Women Film Critics Circle cited the film for its presentation of what they called “the worst female and male images” of the year.

According to Entertainment Weekly his script for Bug, starring Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon as a lonely woman and unhinged war veteran trapped in a bug infested Oklahoma motel room, contains an “enjoyably icky heart.”

Tracy Letts seems willing to take on any challenge to add to his hyphenate status. There’s just one thing you can’t ask him to do. “I don’t act in the stuff that I write,” he says. “I have no interest in doing that.”