Anyone’s appreciation of this adaptation stands a very good chance of being tempered if you were lucky enough to catch it in its original stage form. While the film version was always inevitable after it became such a huge international success, the demands of your average cinema attendee has seen what was a truly brilliant four-hour play whittled down to a two-hour drama, the pregnant tension of seeing it unfold live has been replaced by the conventions of screen language, and the outstanding original cast have all had their parts taken over by household names. The effect of all these inevitable adjustments to stage adaptations is a little mixed.

While there isn’t much to be done about the time constraints (the option of intervals is sadly a thing of the past in all bar a few rebellious cinemas), the unavoidable effect is that the film is simplified – plot strands are more neatly tied up, characters have less room to breathe and develop and much of the ratcheted tension is dissipated. This can usually be tempered by a director who uses the mechanics of cinema to bring a text to life in ways that theatre can’t, but instead TV veteran John Wells plays it very safe – it’s very much a case of “point the camera at the actors, and don’t try any fancy shit”. So on the whole, the piece suffers from being taken from stage to screen.

Where it either doesn’t lessen at all, or arguably even improves, is with its casting. There’s an almost ridiculously talented ensemble at work here, spearheaded (appropriately, given the dominance of the character she plays) by the ludicrously-consistent Meryl Streep, whose work here is amongst the best she’s ever done. For someone nominated for 18 Oscars in 36 years, that’s saying something. The rest of the cast all acquit themselves well too, with perhaps a surprising standout being Julia Roberts, here given something to do with a little more bite than her usual fare. So while not all the potholes of adapting a play are avoided, some are enjoyably vaulted over.

Simplifying a Complex Play5
Failing to Make It Truly Cinematic5
Still, At Least It Was a Great Script to Begin With9
Oh, and Julia Roberts Is Really Good8
And Meryl Streep Is the Greatest Living Screen Actor10
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test Failures
  • n/a
7Overall Score

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.