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- Kids say
Pretty tame for a rated R movie. Well-acted, but it seems a little weird to have dialog from Shakespeare's own time included in a modern setting.
What's the story?
Shakespeare's HAMLET is updated and set in modern-day New York City in this adaptation starring Ethan Hawke as an aspiring filmmaker who finds himself in opposition to the oppressive Denmark Corporation. All the usual characters show up in 21st-century versions of themselves, from Ophelia (Julia Stiles) to Polonius (Bill Murray).
Is it any good?
This is a dreadful movie. Shakespeare is multi-facted enough to stand up to almost every possible kind of interpretation and adaptation. Almost. This version is so poorly produced and directed that there would be serious doubt that the cast speaks English if it were not made up of such well-known and accomplished actors. So we have to blame the director since most of the time, it sounds as though they are repeating nonsense syllables that they have memorized. Diane Venora as Gertrude and Liev Shreiber as Laertes are the only ones who have moments of connection to the material. What we get from the others instead is tricks of juxtaposition, Elizabethan language amidst 21st century technology.
Remember the "to be or not to be" speech? Hawke, who wears an idiotic knitted ski cap through much of the movie and mopes around like a teenager who's been grounded, recites that speech while walking through the aisles at Blockbuster. He leaves the "get thee to a nunnery" speech for Ophelia on her answering machine. Polonius soliloquizes to a security camera. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern report back to Gertrude and Claudius by speakerphone and Hamlet lets them know he's coming home by fax. And the play "to catch the conscience of the king" is a video Hamlet screens for his horrified family. Even in a monotone, the language and story are worthwhile for teens, and it may inspire them to look at one of the better versions (especially those starring Mel Gibson and Laurence Olivier) on video.
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