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"August"
Reviewer:
Edward McNulty
Studio: MGM
Genre:
Drama
Release Date:
9/11
Special Features:

None

Review:

This Anthony Hopkins-directed film, opening in 1996, has taken a long time to find a DVD distributor. Its script by Julian Mitchell is based on the play "Uncle Vanya" by Anton Chekov, so it is understandable why it languished in a film vault so long. No chase scenes or CGI-enhanced action here, just a series of scenes in which the characters talk and talk and talk.***

The setting is transferred from a Russian estate to one in north Wales, Hopkins’ birthplace. The actor plays Ieuan (pronounced Yiyan), a man in his fifties who realizes that he has largely wasted his life He says, “I'm so confused. Why am I old?'' He drinks too much and rants but does nothing to change his life. He has been managing the estate left by his sister to his niece Sian (Rhian Morgan). Their tranquil life has been upended by the visit of Sian’s father and the old man’s second, much younger wife, Professor Alexander Blathwaite (Leslie Phillips) and Helen (Kate Burton).***

Part of the disruption is caused by the stuffy Professor himself, a man who, Ieuan observes, lectures on art without knowing anything about it. He postures and rants to all who will listen, which is virtually no one. He loves his wife Kate, but she does not reciprocate, rejecting his public attempts to kiss and hug. Indeed, it is cold, self-absorbed Kate who is the major cause for disturbing Ieuan’s peace of mind.***

He is infatuated with her, and she is vain enough to neither encourage nor discourage it. Also the local physician Dr. Lloyd (Gawn Grainger), as soured on country life, as is Ieuan, chases after Helen. When they are alone on one occasion, and he forces himself on her, she feigns protest, but obviously enjoys his attention. To complicate matters more, the plain-faced Sian is in love with the doctor, enlisting at one point Helen into talking with the doctor about her attraction to him.***

In a set piece Ieuan explodes, taking after the Professor with a loaded shotgun. They run through the house and out onto the lawn, everyone screaming away. This is a scene in which Hopkins would have been wise to have brought in another director, his antics being far too over the top. Someone should have said, “Pull back Tony, cool it a bit!” Or at least he might have watched and learned from a better version released in 1994, Louis Malle’s Vanya On 42nd Street.***

Special Features:

None

Final Words:

The play is a comedy about serious matters, the meaning of one’s life and of love, but Hopkins makes the characters too ridiculous rather than funny, and this is especially true of the character he plays. Still, I am glad to have watched the DVD. Even a mediocre version of Chekov is far better than 90% of the so-called comedies coming out of Hollywood. Oh yes. Hopkins also created the film’s musical score.

 

 
 
 
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