The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings
A CurtainUp Streaming Feature
By Elyse Sommer
Though Netflix didn't win a ststue in the end the numerous nominations certainly insure that the company's original content has earned it a place in the Hollywood entertainment world. As for dedicated live theater goers, these stories featuring many of their favorite stage and screen actors up close and without leaving home, these new features have been a win-win-win. That also goes for the actors and directors for whom this type of film work expands their fan base and supports their stage work.
The Irishman - a triumph not just in terms of enabling a streaming giant to be an integral part of filmdom, but for legendary septugenatian film director, screenwriter and producer Martin Scorsese as welll as veteran screen and stage actors Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci.
A crime epic running 3 1/2 hours, It stars GoodFella and Taxi Driver star DeNiro in the title role' of Frank Sheeran.; Pacino as the real union boss, Jimmy Hoffa, whose death remains an unsolved mystery to this day; and Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino.
We first meet DeNiro as an old man in a senior residence taking us through his life and the way it became iinexrically linked with Hoffa's as his devoted "fixer."
DeNiro's close-ups make a hard to beat case for the advantages of watching a story on screen, even if that screen is no bigger than your ipad. Pesci and Pacino are also at the top of their game, with the years their stories span deftly aided by filmic de-aging tricks.
Other live theater as well as film actors include Harvey Keitel as Angelo Bruno'; Anna Paquin who, as Frank's daughter turns silences into a master class of heart-wrenching emotions. Bobby Canavale, currently starring on stage at BAM in a contemporary version of Medea and slated to reprise A Streetcar Named Desire with Audra McDonald during next Summer's Williamstown Theater Festival , here plays the marvelously named Skinny Razor.
Since with the exception of the two The Godfather films, I'm not a fan of mobster thrillers I felt no need to see The Irishman on a big screen, and to be perfectly frank, I was glad I was watchin on my Ipad which enabled me to break my viewing into two sessions. That said, the way it was put together and these terrific seventy-something guys made it a memorably compelling experience.
It would not be amiss if this had been entitled The Divorce Story and described as autobiographical since Baumbach undoubtedly had memories of his own painful divorce to draw on for this 136-minute stor about the marital split of Nicole (Scarlett Johansson), an actress, and Charlie (Adam Driver), a playwright and their dealing with being a continuing presence for their 8-year-old son Henry (Azhy Robertson). Their story begins at the start of the divorce process, with the opening scene having them alternate listing each others good qualities that have kept them together so far for their divorce mediator
It turns out that Nicole need s to follow her own more independent career path, which means acting on her desire to live in L.A. What's more there's the cause-giving act that Charlie has had sex with a co-worker.
And so the separation moves forward and the initial plan to by--pass lawyers does also. Thanks to Nicole's delciously no-holds-bar lawyer (Laura Dern) and Charle's reluctant decision to choose a lawyer (Ray Liotta and Alan Alda, both of whom are terrific) the film finally explodes into a battle royal reminiscent of the big confrontation in Ingmar Bergman's Scenes From a Marriage (intriguingly staged at New York Theater Workshop six years ago — my review).
As Director Ivo van Hove's stage adaptation didn't make quite the unforgettabhle emotonal impact as that classic Bergman film, Marriae Play is not likely to linger in my memory quite like Bergman's film. That said, however, it certainly was an attention holding, engaging viewing experience with the chance to see not just Johanssen and Driver, but this uniformly fine cast up close as if I were in row B-C-D-E on the aisle. I would have liked to see not just Laura Dern, but a few others win one of those coveted little statues at the Oscar ceremony.
Ulimately Driver's Charlie, though he wins a McArthur Genius Grant is the big loser in this story though Driver's portrayal makes him the most memorable character. Baumbach has thrown in an ending that should delight musical theater fans by having Charlie delivers a melancholy rendtion of Stephen Sondheim’s "Being Alive" from Company . The way Driver's dreamlike singing actually transitions into what seems like a real musical is brilliant.
Multiple streaming platform subscribers can also see Driver strut his strut in HBO's political documentary The Report. Driver plays a relentless pursuer of the facts about this country's depressngly true engagement in torture. The senator who called public attention to it all was . Senator Diane Feinstein (stage and screen star Ammette Benig). This film too is full of actors live theater goers will recognize — some in major roles like Douglas Hodge as a chilling torture enabler, Dr. James Mitchell; some as senators and other as major political staffers. There are also many real political operatives who crop up. Hardly escape fare. But no torn from the heacline stories these days are.
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