Reflections

SXSW 2000 Film Festival and Conference

HAMLET

Dir/Scr: Michael Almereyda; Prod: Andrew Fierberg, Amy Hobby; Exec Prod: Jason Blum, John Sloss; DP: John de Borman; Ed: Kristina Boden; Music: Carter Burwell; Cast: Ethan Hawke, Kyle MacLachlan, Sam Shepard, Diane Venora, Bill Murray, Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Karl Geary.

35mm, 113 min., 2000 (RP)

If you thought Cruel Intentions unjustly butchered a piece of classic literature, brace yourself for director Michael Almereyda's Hamlet. This full-throttle fiasco hits bottom from the get-go and never recovers, despite an appealing and talented cast. Like William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, Hamlet updates the original story to a modern-day setting (New York, in this case) and retains the Bard's text, almost verbatim. Unlike Romeo + Juliet, however, Hamlet lacks any stylistic through line. Almereyda simply places his attractive cast in a number of nicely designed apartments, lofts, and penthouses without regard to the external world, expecting the viewer to accept iambic pentameter as a normal way of speaking. In his dullest performance yet, Hawke (Hamlet) leads a cast that also includes McLachlan (Claudius), Venora (Queen), Murray (Polonius), Stiles (Ophelia), and Schreiber (Laertes). Though many of the actors say their lines with conviction, none of them are particularly believable, especially Hawke. In an awkward twist, many of Hamlet's monologues are performed as voiceovers, functioning as internal thoughts rather than speeches. Hamlet is a silly, pointless adaptation that turns one of Shakespeare's best plays into a meandering mess of bad acting, inconsistent direction, and brazenly ridiculous product placement.

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