Title: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead
Director: Tom Stoppard
Original Release: 1990
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
I was more receptive when we read the play senior year and it certainly helped that by that time, we'd read Hamlet, too. Older and comfortably weirder, I was charmed by the playful banter and the philosophical musing. I'm not sure I qualify as an existentialist but I've always found the idea appealing. I learned the word avuncular from the play.
I'm not even sure when I watched the film the first time but I loved it instantly. An American friend in Japan left me her VHS copy when she went back home and I would often watch it over dinner in my apartment. The movie feels like an old pal at this point.
Stoppard directed the film himself and he's probably the only person who could have done right by the material. For what was surely a bare bones budget film, the acting is world class. The titular leads are Gary Oldman and Tim Roth. It was early in both men's careers but they already had serious indie film cred - Oldman from Sid and Nancy, Roth from The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. The big catch was Richard Dreyfuss, who plays the Lead Player. Ian Richardson, a founding member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, plays Polonius. Filming was done in what was still Yugoslavia.
In anticipation of this post, I picked Ros&Guil (as my Ophelia friend used to call it) for Family Movie Night a few weeks back - probably not the best choice in hindsight. The humor is occasionally a bit tawdry but not too bad. I doubt my daughter even got most of the jokes, which was the problem. She didn't understand what was going on. She was a good sport about it but it clearly didn't work for her. Maybe one needs to be a jaded teen/twenty-something to get it. Maybe someday.
To be fair, I found myself a little impatient with the movie, too. It's still funny but slow at times, a problem not helped by the girl's wiggling (more emotional than physical). It's also dark - a lot darker than I need at this point in my life. Being parent, husband and teacher, it's a lot easier to see the clear purpose in life than it was when I was young and proudly independent. I actually docked a point from my rating. I'd have thought of R&G as a solid 5 before but not anymore. I've written a lot on this blog about movies that change for us over time. The ones I've featured to this point have improved with age. This one slipped.
Mind you, it's still a strong 4. You should still watch it if you never have. I'd be delighted to hear what interesting people think about it.
Next meeting is Friday, April 10th. I'll post April's blog list tomorrow along with a list of everyone's March choices. Let's keep this friendly, though. If no one else's movie strikes your fancy, pick a new one to toss in the hat. In the meantime, please be sure to visit the other society members this month: