lts arrival clouded by myriad stories of pre-. iii- and post-production problems. this troubled adaptation of Valerie Martin's feminist re- working of Dr Jekyll :l/n/ .ilr Hri/e can scarcely be seen for what it is -a bold but flawed film ruined by ltidici'otis miscasling. risible dialogue and a crucial. historical change in our perception of heroines.
Seyeral directors passed on the project before 'l'riStar finally settled on Stephen l‘rears. reuniting him w ith Dir/leeway [Juiwm scl'll‘t“ riter (‘hrislopher Hampton. As soon as filming started. rumours began to circulate about on set tension between John Malkoyich and .lulia Roberts - culminating. it is alleged. in an end-of- filming outburst w herein Malkoyich candidly expressed his opinion of his cry-star's limited acting abilities. Small wonder. then. that when Frears
Mary Reilly: ‘a bold bui ﬂawed film‘
Steyenson's classic short story through the eyes of .leky ll‘s maid (Roberts). whose actions giyen the l‘lth century noyel conyentions the author draws on -- might be accepted as merely naiy e. But in the contest of a modern horror moyie. Roberts's maid is tnerely the dumb. disposable \ ictiin who wanders about the spooky home in her nightdress waiting for something dreadful to happen to her. Elsewhere. Hampton's script skilfully draws otit .lekyll's all- consuming obsession with his darker (l/lt’l' ego. and his maid‘s tremulous fascination with the doctor's young 'assistant'. Yet there is lit) chemistry at all between the yacuous Roberts and the self-regarding Malkoyich. who seem to be acting in separate dimensions; in addition. neither of them has grasped their indiyidual characters or the cotnple\. ambiguous relationship
BEFORE AND AFTER
Instantly forgettable title for another sporadically gripping did-he-do-it-or— didn‘t-he murder story from the director who gaye us the low down on the Clans yon Bulow case in lx’ei'ersu/ Of" Fortune.
Where Barbet Schroeder‘s earlier film ~
focused on the accused. Before :llul Alter examines the impact on the whole family of an AWOL son (lidward l‘urlong) suspected of murdering his girlfriend. While the sister (Julia Weldon) narrates with the kind of philosophical resignation to their fate only hindsight ofthe ‘a few years later‘ kind can furnish. parents Meryl Streep
and Liam .\'ccson agonise oyer whether i to aid the inyestigation or mislead the authorities.
Hot-headed artist father Neeson. guilt-
i ridden oyer his inability to relate to his
son. destroy s eyidence and purges
himself in court. while the more
i temperate doctor mother Streep opts for ' the truth (because her boy iiiust be
innocent). Neither tactic is completely
successful. both digging eyeryonc deeper into a legal quagmire and diyiding family loyalties by gender. Neither a murder mystery nor a courtroom drama (despite a good cameo from Alfred Molina as the hot- shot criminal defence lawyer). lfelm'e
.Ilm/ :lller's best moments are those
( concentrating on family diyision with strong. measured performances (despite i an uninspiring script) all round.
l’nfoitunately. this degeneratcs into a i sickeningly sentimental father-son l bonding conclusion and the kind of i dippy happy (non- lending with which | Hollywood so often ruins its films. (\lllc‘s’ l’iclder) . lie/tire .-lm/ .»\/Ie/' ( l3) (liar/rel : .S'r‘lli'uer/e): ('5'. /()()()) .l/ery/ .S'lree/l. : Liam .\'ee_win. lit/nun! l'ill'lU/lt’. INN mins. rm); I")? /‘I. (ieneru/ re/euse.
‘degenerates into a sickeningly sentimental father- son bonding conclusion’
The very thought of remaking much- loved French-Italian farce La Cage Aux Fol/es in English might cause some cinema-goers to pull on a black armband, thinking another foreign language movie has been bludgeoned to death by Hollywood. Thankfully, The Birdcage is a colourful piece of all-
' round entertainment that only a
hardened bigot wouldn’t warm to. Armand (Robin Williams) is owner of
. a drag nightclub whose top star is his T partner Albert (Nathan Lane). Armand’s straight son Val (Dan Futterman)
announces his intention to marry, but
between them. .-\s a result. the (mum is he neeus his ilaI‘ICée’S
many of the early scenes 3 parental permission, and her dad is an
declared himself unhappy- with the dramatic playing
of the final scene. Malkoyich was reluctant to return for re-shoots.
At this stage. the entire production was shut down while TriStar negotiated with Malkoyich's agent. During this costly hiatus. eyeryone and their dog came up with ways of improying the ending — including. it is said. Ms Roberts. liyentually. Malkoyich returned and a number of alternative endings were filmed. Ironically. when shown to US prey iew audiences. none of these new endings tested any better than Frears original. so it was retained.
Martin's I‘)‘)t) noyel presents Robert Louis
ring “OHM (Ind mun)‘ of ’ ill-tempered right-wing senator (Gene
the later ones proyoke mocking laughter. Yet despite the pedestrian plotting. l‘rears handles the claustrophobic atmosphere and set-piece suspense scenes
, remarkably well.
Nothing like as bad as one would have expected. then. but nothing like as good as it might haye been with a different cast. a more inspired director and a more dangerous imagination. (Nigel liloyd)
illuri' Rel/Ir I IS) (Step/ten I’reurs, ( '5‘. NOS) .lulin .lltl/kul'tt'lt, Jtl/‘(l Rube/ls, (iem'ee ('nle. /()A‘ Milli). l-‘mm Fri 3 Mar. (ieneru/ [IV/(7131'.
j Hackman). In order to give some I semblance of a nuclear family 3 background, Armand calls in a favour
from Val’s mother (Christine Baranski), but when she’s held up, maybe Albert’s cross-dressing skills are all that can save the day.
As a dramatic form, farce relies on stereotyping - gay or straight - and so a little bit of over-statement in the characterisation department isn’t worthy of the grumbles of protest that the film has met with in some parts of America. The Birdcage defines the preoccupations of its main players, sets up an admittedly contrived scenario, then waits for the pay off. The fact that it does so without straining for effect is remarkable for any Hollywood movie, far less one that
l held on comfortably to the US N01 box office slot for several weeks.
The normally flamboyant Williams is in more restrained mood, and his grasp of Armand’s inner complexities makes this perhaps his best ever acting performance. Lane, also on excellent form, knows when to make the most of high camp and when to win sympathy without histrionics. Director Mike Nichols handles it all with ease, letting us have our fun, but not obscuring the more serious points about hypocrisy and personal freedom that make this a timely remake for the mid-905. (Alan Morrison)
The Birdcage (15/ (Mike Nichols, US, 1995) Robin Williams, llafhan Lane, Gene Ilackman. 119 mins. From Fri 26.
‘A colourful piece of all-round entertainment that only a hardened bigot wouldn’t warm to’
22 The List I‘) Apr-2 May I996