<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d15109074\x26blogName\x3dThe+Arts+Corner\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dTAN\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttps://lovelysalomearts.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://lovelysalomearts.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d4312779726834156211', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

13 January 2006

Tape (2001)

Ethan Hawke (Vince), Robert Sean Leonard (Jon) and Uma Thurman (Amy)

Directed by Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise)

Summary: In a seedy motel room, Vince, an ill-tempered party animal and drug dealer, visits with his old high school friend, Jon, a docu- mentary filmmaker. They pass the time reminiscing until Vince forces Jon into a confession about Vince's former girlfriend, Amy. When Amy arrives, the three argue about what actually happened, casting doubt on the nature of fact and fabrication.

How often do you get to watch a film where the entirety of its span features actors whose work you thoroughly enjoy? And I mean its entirety. The cast list I included (above) is not abbreviated. Hawke, Leonard, and Thurman were the only actors.

Now if you think back to your junior high years, you may recall that Hawke and Leonard co-starred opposite Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society, a classic coming-of-age film about the nature of individuality, youth, and being true to one's self. I mean, how cute were they? Flash forward twelve years and this picture reveals radically changed men. Hawke was just starting to assume that skinny, jitterbug, slightly ill look he currently sports, while Leonard was taking on some of the jaded playboy characteristics you can witness weekly in "House".

Both men played intensely interesting, unlikable characters. Hawke's role as Vince is one of energy and deceit. The film begins as he prepares for Jon's arrival at the motel room. He tips as many cans of beer into the sink as he drinks, giving the impression that he consumed more than he has. When Jon arrives, the cinematic work for each is markedly different. While his character dodges in and out of the bathroom, runs over the beds, and generally torments Jon with his seemingly irrepressible devilment, Hawke shuns the camera. The first half hour or so contains no prolonged shot of Hawke's face. The camera recording his role is as manic as Vince, adding to the energy and nausea.

Leonard, however, is the picture of refinement. He is casually attired, initially refuses beer and pot, and talks about his successes. The camera loves Leonard's face... and who wouldn't? Shots linger over his serene features linger while he dissects Vince's many failings and muses about his own lofty career goals. Jon is stable. Vince is nuts. We get it. But the effect of such a seemingly simplistic cinematography trick provided a kinetic energy that heightened all they had yet to say.

The crux of their hour-long dialogue is the transition each character makes. In any quality dialogue-driven piece such as this, there comes a time when everyone has to stop with the bullshit. What is aggression? What is respectability? What are true motives behind what we do? Jon is a man who seeks self-improvement by flagging himself with the nightmare of his past, but he cannot bring himself to say aloud what he did. He never apologized for his actions. Vince is a f*ck-up whose only ambition is to be self-righteous this one time. And for once, he is in the right about the morality of the situation, even if his own motivations are impure.

As the movie progresses, when he wishes to be anywhere and anyone other than he is, Jon's moment as the camera's sweetheart comes to an end. Vince settles, and the camera gives him a few moments to say his peace, to be the slightest bit vulnerable. He is a stinking wreck of a grown-up, but for a few tiny scenes, I could almost see Hawke as Todd Anderson - or at least what would have been Vince's Todd Anderson phase before he fell into the role of drug-dealing loser.

Uma Thurman is not given enough credit for her subtlety. She is a beautiful, massively tall woman, but she can play roles of insecurity with tremendous skill. In Pulp Fiction, for example, I think of her finally telling Vincent her "Fix Force Five" joke. She is embarrassed, entirely self-deprecating and almost lame, even while portraying the sexiest thing in a black wig. She plays Amy with the same radiance, but with a vulnerability that says her character cannot hide from her adolescence, even with ten years of maturity, her success as a lawyer, and phenomenal looks. Every time she looked at Jon, I could almost see her skin crawl.

Overall, this film was a play. Character-driven, fueled by outrageously subtle performances (because even Hawke's manic bad guy persona was an act within itself), and touching on some of the most painful truths of self and personal motivation, Tape is a quiet, hidden gem in the careers of three fantastic performers.

Blogger Newsandseduction said...

interesting blog!

Anonymous Pacze Moj said...

I haven't seen Tape (it seems to have vanished into film history; even people I know who love Richard Linklater don't bring it up much) but your description of it reminds me of a similar film that I have seen: John Swanbeck's The Big Kahuna. It's also an adapted play, and features three great performances -- by Danny DeVito, Kevin Spacey and Peter Facinelli.

NB: I now want to see Tape.


Blogger themarina said...

I've been looking for a copy of this for some time but it appears to be elusive.


Post a Comment

<< Return to Salome's Corner