Runtime 98 minutes
This is the play that was the game-changer for doctor/writer Anton Chekhov. When first performed in 1896, the actors were laughed and hooted off the stage. But when the legendary Konstantin Stanislavsky directed and starred in a second production two years later, it got a boffo response from audience and critics, allowing Chekhov to go on to become one of the great playwrights of all time.
Chekhov himself described it as “a comedy with three female roles, six male roles, four acts, a landscape, much conversation about literature, little action, and five tons of love.”
The characters Chekhov created are incomparable. Irina (Annette Bening) is the glue, the materfamilias, a renowned actress who is spending time at her summer home with her son, Konstantin ((Billly Howle), her lover Boris Trogorin (Corey Stoll), her ill brother and co-owner of the estate, Sorin (Brian Dennehy), Konstantin’s girlfriend Nina (Saoirse Ronan), who lives nearby, the estate manager, Shamrayev (Glenn Flesher and his wife Polina (Mare Winningham) and their daughter Masha (Elizabeth Moss).
Affections are confused. Konstatin is hot for Nina, who gets the hots for Boris, who is infatuated with Nina while Marsha is infatuated with in the same blind manner as Konstantin feels about Nina. Polina loves Dorn (Jon Tenney), a local doctor and ladies’ man, but it while he likes her, it’s not love.
The dialogue (Chekhov and Stephen Karam) is stimulating and thought-provoking. The only thing I really did not like about it is the dull cinematography (Matthew J. Lloyd) which is dark and drab when the mountain lakeside location could have been beautiful and spectacular.
Despite that, translated by a terrific cast, this is as heavy as you might expect, but well worth it.
Life of the Party
Runtime 105 minutes
This isn’t the worst Melissa McCarthy movie, but it’s close. There is a trick to deciding whether or not to attend one of Ms. McCarthy’s movies. If she is just an actor in the film, the odds are good that it will be
funny, like Identity Thief (2013), which was a riot directed by Seth Gordon and written by Craig Mazin.
If, on the other hand, she or her husband, Ben Falcone, have anything to do with writing or directing, like Tammy (2014) and The Boss (2016), stay away. Their work strains to barely achieve the level called shallow.
In this, the husband of Deanna (McCarthy) tells her he’s divorcing her in the first five minutes of the film. Shocked and devastated, she decides to go back to college to get her degree in archeology, choosing the same college attended by her daughter, Maddie (Molly Gordon), and joins the same sorority.
The situations are absurd. Except for a slightly humorous bare two-minute stretch in the middle depicting a mediation scene between her and her ex-husband, one waits in vain for something, anything to appreciate and/or entertain.
This debacle is directed by Falcone and written by the two of them, and it is truly awful. It is low class, glorifies excessive drinking, drug use, sexual promiscuity, justifies mindless revenge and is singularly unfunny. How these two get people to fund the junk they manufacture is beyond my comprehension, especially in light of the abject failures of their prior efforts.
McCarthy is a competent comedic actress when she has both good material and a good director. She should stick to acting and leave the writing and directing to people who have those talents.