Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? C+

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is to me a perfectly acted movie because the story allows the characters to break loose, wreak havoc, and manifest rage. Good performers thrive when there's nothing to hold back, and Mike Nichols' film based off the play by Edward Albee allows Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton to do just that. They give mighty performances, purposefully histrionic and full of emotion. The movie opens with a couple, George (Burton) and Martha (Taylor) walking home from a party. When they arrive home they seem beat. Martha's been drinking and George looks like he's ready to sleep for an entire month. But then we learn that Martha has invited guests over from the party and that they will be arriving soon. It's well after midnight, and we assume the visit will be short. But that's not the case, as the visitors, a young man and wife, show up and proceed to stay for the rest of the movie. So we're with these two couples, everyone is drunk, and they refuse to part their separate ways. I wanted to yell to them to shut up and go to bed, but instead they dissect each other's lives and all of their problems all night long. And they do it not as normal adults, but as animals screaming, laughing, crying, and complaining. Spending over two hours with these people is painful, but potentially rewarding. But the story blunders by having the characters drunk in the middle of the night instead of sober in the afternoon. It would have been more practical to take the latter route because then we could get an honest assessment of who these people really are. Then again, would they have expressed such feelings of hatred and remorse if they had been sober? George and the young man are colleagues, and this eventful evening is really their first chance to get to know one another. You'd have to think it would be pretty awkward the next time they run into each other at work.

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