THE TEMPEST By Gary "The Bard" Murray Starring Helen Mirren, David Strathairn, Djimon Hounsou and Russell Brand Written by William Shakespeare Adapted for the screen and directed by Julie Taymor Running time 115 min MPAA Rating Selig Film Rating Cable Of all of the works of Shakespeare, The Tempest is one of the least filmed works. While Romeo & Juliet and Hamlet get a remake just about every decade, the tale of Prospero is not in the same league. It might be because of the subject matter or it may be the difficulty of giving the play a real world life but The Tempest has received less than its due on the Silver Screen. The latest to take on the challenge is acclaimed director Julie Taymor. In a grand change of pace, Taymor has changed Prospero to Prospera (Helen Mirren) the Duchess of Milan. She has been exiled by her brother Antonio. With her daughter, the two live on an island for twelve long years. King Alonzo (David Strathairn) sails by and Prospero uses her powers of black magic and sorcery to cause a tempest, wrecking the ship and stranding those on board. That passenger list includes Antonio and Prince Ferdinand. With Shakespeare, there are competing stories. We have the young lovers of Prospera daughter Miranda (the stunning Felicity Jones) and Ferdinand (Reeve Carney). The two meet and fall in love, thus complicating all the revenge. There is the story of Caliban (Djimon Hounsou) the slave wanting his escape and his exploring adventures with Trinculo (Russell Brand) and Stephano (Alfred Molina). This is presented as the comic relief that played for the crowd under the footlights. The different elements drive the story to everyone meeting and Prospera showing her powers. Some of the acting in this film is amazing. Helen Mirren, going against type, takes this usually male role and gives it a very different reading. She gives the role her all, filling the rafters with scene eating bile. That is the problem, she's playing the role as if she were on stage, projecting to the back wall. A degree of subtly would do. Felicity Jones just lights up every scene she is in. There is this glow to her performance that gives it a true ring. The amazement she shows when seeing Ferdinand is genuine. But she is also manages some real fear in seeing her mother at work casting spells. It is a measured performance. Russell Brand just seems lost as Trinculo, jumping and running all over the place with no apparent motivation. He just spouts the lines without any meaning behind them. He should have taken a cue from Alfred Molina who puts the character in Stephano. Poor Djimon Hounsou is just lost as Caliban, never sure of what he should be doing with the part. He says the lines but never lives them. The film is directed by Julie Taymor but she never seems to be sure of what kind of film she is making. Some of the visuals are stunning but other scenes fall flat. Since there is little consistency between the performances, she has different degrees of style and commitment going on within the same scenes. The only notes that are hit on a steady basis are the love story moments. The Tempest is one of the harder Shakespearean dramas to get to work either on stage or screen. That is why there have been so few successful versions produced. This is yet another failed attempt to scale the harder side of the Bard's work. A fair attempt at best.
Written ByGary Murray
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