Saturday, December 13, 2008

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Four actors and great direction by Mike Nichols turn Edward Albee's play into a cinematic masterpiece, one of the most shattering, depressing, and exhausting films of our time. The movie revolves around a after-party social that goes massively awry, with humiliation and insanity in huge quantities. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, equally good, play couple George and Martha, who have an odd relationship full of horrible bickering. When another couple, Nick and Honey (George Segal and Sandy Dennis), show up for the wildest of nights. Everyone eventually gets drunk, and that reveals a lot of family history between the four that they wouldn't have given out with no drinks around. This very early on spirals out of control, and the party may have destroyed all the relationships by the end of the party. It is an excellent film, horrifying, witty, and the darkest and highest of black comedies. Both of the women won Oscars, and I think just Taylor should have, because although Dennis is pretty good, she is not a worthy second win. If there had to be two, it should have been Burton and Taylor. But the strangest thing is what's happened to Mike Nichols over the course of 40 years. His first film was top-notch, and his last film "Charlie Wilson's War," will be forgotten. At least he got a great start, and an inclusion on the AFI list not once, but twice (both this film and "The Graduate" made the current list). This film, though, is master class, one of the best adaptations of a play of all-time. A

Who's Afraid... is disturbing. Trust me.

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