A MASTER BUILDER
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars • Unrated • Theater: Edina.
Henrik Ibsen, Wallace Shawn and André Gregory — now there’s a carefree trio bound to engulf us in mirth with their madcap antics. OK, maybe not, but under the direction of Jonathan Demme, stage veterans Shawn and Gregory make a modern, American version of the Norwegian playwright’s “The Master Builder” surprisingly engaging, even if you’re not a die-hard fan of any of the above. Such was Shawn’s dedication that he actually learned Norwegian to adapt the play, adding a twist or two of his own, including a different ending. Halvard Solness (Shawn, masterfully alternating between cute bulldog puppy and trolling moray) is a selfish, womanizing egomaniac of an ailing architect who browbeats his wife, macks on his young bookkeeper and emotionally abuses his apprentice, son of his colleague Brovik (Gregory, who appears only briefly). Along comes flirty young siren Hilde (Lisa Joyce) purporting to admire the preening Halvard, whom she claims to have met under murky circumstances as a child, and the pair begin a series of intense conversations peppered with forced, brutal laughter and fierce eye contact. But most delightful to watch is Julie Hagerty as Halvard’s martyred, jealous wife Aline. It’s as if she conjured the passive-aggressive resentment of every put-upon Scandinavian throughout history and let it pulse slowly through her facial expressions.
THE LAST OF ROBIN HOOD
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rating: R for sexuality and language.
Errol Flynn went out at age 50, true to debauched form, in the arms of the 17-year-old lover he’d forcibly “seduced” two years earlier — with her mother’s tacit approval. This final-days biopic tracing studio extra Beverly Aadland’s late-1950s romance with the washed-up former matinee idol hasn’t much to raise it above straight-to-DVD caliber save the performance of Kevin Kline in a role he was born to play. Kline’s Flynn is weak, puffy and desperate to avoid facing either his demons or the truth about his pickled career, choosing instead to escape reality by running his creepy, tremor-plagued hands up and down Beverly (Dakota Fanning in an unremarkable turn for a seasoned pro). As Beverly’s fame-hungry stage mom, Florence, Susan Sarandon turns a blind eye behind blue cat-eyes, joining them as her daughter’s “chaperon” on their travels, which include a trip to Cuba to film a bizarre pro-Castro movie starring, of course, Beverly — after Flynn fails to convince Stanley Kubrick that he and his paramour would make the perfect Humbert and Lolita. While writer/directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland strive more for a docudrama atmosphere than the lurid sleazefest it so easily could have slid into just adhering to the facts, they treat the rape and subsequent sexual exploitation of a minor with a complicit “that’s the way it is” shrug.
THE LONGEST WEEK
⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rating: PG-13, for sexual content and smoking.
Theater: Mall of America.
This lightly charming New York romance stars Jason Bateman as Conrad Valmont, a pampered, 40ish man-child lost in “the distractions of wealth.” He lives in the family hotel, rides with the family chauffeur and spends his huge family allowance. Then his globe-trotting parents decide to divorce and neither wants to support him. He’s evicted, penniless, with only a pricey haircut, tailored clothes and a motor scooter to his name. Conrad’s “Longest Week” begins with a first-time-in-decades ride on the subway, which takes him to his artist-friend Dylan (Billy Crudup). The lovelorn Dylan will put him on the sofa for a few days, but he nags and nags Conrad to not make a play for Dylan’s potential new “ingénue” girlfriend, Beatrice (Olivia Wilde). Guess what happens? Over the course of Conrad’s week, he endures an attempted setup with a pretentious grad student, played by the comic Jenny Slate of “Obvious Child.” He tries to reach his parents, falls in love, and he hides his impending poverty with style. Writer/director Peter Glanz doesn’t hammer his jokes, relying on the cast to wring charm out of characters and situations. Sometimes that works, but not often enough to make this “week” the whirlwind it might have become.
McClatchy News Service