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The time is 1942. John Barrymore is a hopeless alcoholic literally on his last legs. His mind is a swamp of lost and confused memories. But (as he says) he needs to be taken seriously so he arranges to play Shakespeare's Richard III, a role he once made famous. As Barrymore, when Plummer recites the Bard with feeling, he is darn effective. Then he lapses into an alcoholic reverie that offers less rewards. What we experience, and experience is the word, is a glimpse of a great man sinking into wretchedness. Lines of Shakespeare and episodes of Barrymore's life are pieced together the way a drunk stumbles down a street. But I felt that Plummer captured some of Barrymore's greatness. He makes you believe he could have been the actor at the end of his career.
By the end of the play, the audience does take the man seriously. The overwhelming sentiment is "what a shame" that Barrymore did so much voluntary damage to himself.
In summary, the movie needs no special effects because it depends on the magic of a great actor by himself alone.
An important addendum: Now that I have received the DVD I am delighted to report that it contains one of the finest behind-the-scenes "making of" documentaries I've ever seen, covering both the original Broadway stage production and the recent Toronto revivial and subsequent filming of it. All too often these kinds of bonus features are quickly cobbled together almost as an afterthought. However, this intimate backstage glimpse is so good it's worth the price of the DVD all by itself. And as it contains in-depth, insightful interviews with the entire production team -- yes, including the play's author William Luce who is very nicely represented -- it addresses all of my original concerns expressed above. Anyone who watches this glorious documentary will not only know full well who first created the play itself, but will get to know the other impressive talents who cumulatively pooled their skills to create the magical experience which is 'Barrymore'. And wonderful interviews with Helen Mirren, Zoe Caldwell and Julie Andrews are added icing to an already ultra-rich cake. Buy this DVD forthwith!
Plummer, now well into his 80's has the look and physicality of a man 2 decades younger. He has truly come into his own in the last decade with pieces like "Beginners", "The girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and especially "Barrymore". Errol Flynn idolized Barrymore as a youngster, had Barrymore living with him as a film icon, and played him in "Too Much, Too Soon". They were Flynn''s greatest reviews. One should own Barrymore's greatest films such as "20th Century" and "Grand Hotel", as well as Errol Flynn's portrayal. It will help you to appreciate Christopher Plummer's tour de force that much more. This is a perfect play and Plummer's finest hour.Bravo, Maestro!
Plummer also avoids the trap of these sort of shows in that he makes the character his own. Its more than imitation or recreation. I think his literal age at the point of this performance even better captures Barrymore's premature physical decay. They also keep very true to the play but manage to avoiding making it seem static or seem like filmed theater. Of course the script itself, given that the action is on stage, makes it easier. The director talks about using Camera movement to accomplish similiar effects to those accomplished with lighting in a live performance. I can't remember a play that was shot better than this one.
The extras are interesting as well. Most of the creative people involved are heard from from writer to direct
or to the lighting effects. Its also in some measure a reunion and retrospective from those originally involved in the production. There are also interviews with Julie Andrews and Helen Mirran.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Strange movie. Was expecting a biographical movie which it really isn't. Plummer's acting is great and wasted on the poor screenplay/story.Published 2 months ago by el
If you like Plummer, after watching him in this performance , you will fall in love with BarrymorePublished 5 months ago by Farid Bozorgmehr
Wonderful performance by the finest actor of our time playing one of the great actors of his time.Published 9 months ago by Bernard D. Smothers
The movie good but it doesn't,capture the feelings was witness e d at the stage play Mr. Plummer is great actor but it can,t match the live performance. Read morePublished 9 months ago by james clifford
Plummer tour de force. But a bit too much shouting. Got tiresome after a while.Published 10 months ago by Adrian Lepeltier
I purchased this (unseen first) for my mother because she likes the acting of both Barrymore and Christopher Plummer, but she said she turned it off after less than 5 minutes due... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Amy