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Hot Hollywood star Ethan Hawke (TRAINING DAY) is joined by Julia Stiles (10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU) and Bill Murray (LOST IN TRANSLATION) in a hip, thoroughly contemporary adaptation of William Shakespeare's epic story of passion, betrayal, and revenge! The president of the Denmark Corporation is dead ... and already his wife is remarried to the man suspected of his murder! Nobody is more troubled than her son, Hamlet (Hawke). Now, after this hostile takeover, trust is impossible, passion is on the rise, and revenge is in the air! Also featuring Kyle MacLachlan (ONE NIGHT STAND), Liev Schreiber (SCREAM 3), Diane Venora (THE INSIDER), and Sam Shepard (THE PELICAN BRIEF) in an outstanding ensemble -- the power of Shakespeare's timeless words is matched by the stunningly modern look and feel of this widely acclaimed, highly entertaining big-screen event!
Perhaps the least important thing about this latest film version of Shakespeare's masterpiece is its setting in modern-day New York. Yes, such locales as the Guggenheim Museum are used wittily; answering machines and faxes are logically worked into the plot; and it was both inspired and entirely appropriate to make the prince of Denmark a moody, introspective filmmaker whose avant-garde collages provide the context for some of his famous monologues. All of which would be so much pleasantly humorous eye-candy if it didn't come hand in hand with a sympathy for and understanding of this remarkable cast of characters. For that, ultimately, is what makes Michael Almereyda's Hamlet such a delight to watch. Forget that the immortal rumination on suicide is placed in a Blockbuster Video aisle and notice instead how Ethan Hawke's own youthful, callow arrogance makes Hamlet's vacillations believable. And how the comical but infantilizing way Bill Murray's Polonius dotes upon his daughter Ophelia (Julia Stiles)--and her mute acceptance of his attentions--lead her to thoughts of a watery grave even before her bout of madness. And also notice how much Claudius truly does love Gertrude (when gazing at her, Kyle MacLachlan's face relaxes from its usual plasticity) and how Sam Shepard's ghost is less vengeful or tortured than stiffened by remorse. These are the shining moments of invention in Almereyda's bold updating of the play, and they are why this will be a film to watch and enjoy long after its setting has made it as much a period piece as Olivier's adaptation, with its broodingly lit castle, or Branagh's, with its gleaming 19th-century court. --Bruce Reid
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Top customer reviews
The cuts in the play, and other liberties taken, result in something of a disjointed and disappointing production. Cutting edge scholarship, which does NOT interpret the "To be or not to be" speech in the vein of suicidal ideation, is not here represented (VERY disappointing).
A glaring understatement is the unfortunate decision to present Sam Shepard's "Ghost" as not at all ghostly! Hamlet's equivocation mostly is to be viewed as a result of his uncertainty regarding the shadowy Ghost's credibility (In the Middle Ages, if not now, ghosts were viewed as mere goblins, unpossessed of the decedent's actual spirit. Hamlet understandably fears that he is being diabolically duped into performing unjustifiable murder.)
The unrelenting "product placement" throughout the film is not only distracting but downright annoying. It is said that when actors are filmed smoking, that what we have is an ad for smoking -- but when Marlboro packs are seen sitting on the table, well, that's an ad for Marlboro. This creeping commercialization will continue until theatre audiences decide that their only remedy is to "boo" every time "Pepsi" or "Marlboro" logos appear!
This version of Hamlet is perfect for anyone who has been a college slacker since the 70's and has felt the psychological and philosophical dilemma's that that place in our society engenders. The twin joys of this version are 1) the transcendent beauty of Shakespeare's language; and 2) the univerisality of Hamlet's struggles, which transcends the generations. It may not be for Hamlet scholars, but this one was done for us, and if your one of us, you will enjoy it.
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