Film Review: Ophelia

ophelia

I think we can all agree that Shakespeare wrote some good plays. But, because he wrote them over 400 years ago, even his best work can feel a bit dated. While he is responsible for creating several nuanced female characters including Lady Macbeth and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing, they could always use some tweaking for modern viewers. Especially if the target audience is young adults as with Claire McCarthy’s Ophelia. Based on the novel by Lisa Klein, and adapted by Mad Men writer, Semi Challas, the film tells Shakespeare’s celebrated tragedy from the perspective of the woman formerly known as Hamlet’s girlfriend.

Purists will probably come away from this film with many complaints, not the least of which is the updated language. Ophelia’s dialog isn’t modern, per se, but more of a translated Elizabethan. Because it follows one of Hamlet’s minor characters, most of the scenes are new, but there are pivotal scenes shared with the source material, and Challas chooses to re-write those scenes to match the language of the rest of the film. For me, this was the one miss in an otherwise refreshing story of female empowerment and clever revisionism that will hopefully serve as a gateway for young adults into the wide world of Shakespeare’s works.

Daisy Ridley (Star Wars) stars as a low-born girl who becomes Queen Gertrude’s (a breathtaking Naomi Watts) most trusted lady in waiting before falling for her son, Hamlet (George MacKay, Captain Fantastic), just as a suspicious accident shakes up the monarchy. The King’s brother, Claudius (Clive Owen, Children of Men), quickly takes his place on the throne and in Gertrude’s bed. But, as you may have heard, something is rotten in Denmark. Ophelia overhears some loaded conversations which implicate a conspiracy. Soon, she and Hamlet are in danger and must orchestrate an elaborate and theatrical plan to expose the guilty parties lest they succumb to “accidents” of their own.

The film opens with a rendering of John Everett Millais’ 1850 painting as a visual representation of everything we know about Ophelia: She was Hamlet’s girlfriend, but his cruelty and obsession with his father’s death led to her madness and accidental drowning. In Hamlet, we never even see her fate. The Queen reports it in a mournful monologue. But Ridley’s voice-over tells us that there is much more to this story.

Next, we meet Ophelia as muddy little girl running around the castle after her older brother. She isn’t allowed to follow him into the library but he promises to teach her to read in private. Meanwhile, a young Hamlet is on his way to boarding school, leaving Queen Gertrude with an empty nest. She recognizes herself in young Ophelia and declares that she will “see to the raising” of this plucky young thing.

Years later, Ophelia has become a confidante to Gertrude, much to the jealousy of her other ladies in waiting. Gertrude asks Ophelia to read her erotica at bedtime and sends her into the woods to get more “medicine” from a mysterious witch who bears a striking resemblance to the Queen.

Klein’s story takes the openings provided by Willy’s lack of character development and runs with them, turning Ophelia into a whole and admirable female protagonist. She’s not flawless, but she is truly fleshed out, and you fervently root for her, despite thinking you know what becomes of her. She has that classic Disney princess backstory of a dead mother and an inattentive father, where she has to become a self-made woman who attracts the attention of a prince. She’s a cross between Belle and Cinderella, but with even more nuance and life.

Klein also cleverly adds several classic Shakespearean tropes, including potions that mimic death, extra scenes of people overhearing and misinterpreting pivotal information, witty banter as flirtation, and a woman successfully infiltrating an event dressed as a boy. There are also plenty of fairy tale moments such as a costume ball that looks like it was directed by Baz Luhrmann, and a scene that involves Ophelia donning a literal red riding hood to fetch the queen some more of those sweet CBDs from a witch’s woodland dispensary. This lady has potions for all kinds of ailments including aging, chronic pain, marital strife, unwanted advances from brothers-in-law, bad court theater, and making murder look like an accident. You’d better believe her wares also serve as foreshadowing for the drama that’s about to unfold at Elsinore Castle.

MacKay plays Hamlet sympathetically, which is crucial because he is a character who can so easily come off as a selfish dick. In this case, he has joined forces with his love in a clever plot to expose Claudius rather than to use Ophelia as a pawn in his game. Oh, and that play-within-a-play that he orchestrates isn’t just successful in catching the conscience of the king. It’s also a truly beautiful shadow play. Who knew Hamlet was so multi-faceted?

Tom Felton (Harry Potter) plays Laertes with effective earnestness but there’s not much more to him here than in the source material. Devon Terrell (Barry) gives a standout performance as Horatio, who is a true friend to both Hamlet and Ophelia. Owen is a suitable baddie despite an unfortunate hairdo. Everyone looks incredible in gorgeous period costumes amid some breathtaking scenery. The Czech-set film goes a long way toward transporting the viewer to another time and place. Anyone would feel glamorous eves-dropping behind such grand tapestries.

I do wish they’d kept some of the more famous lines, because one of the coolest things about reading the Bard for the first time is learning the source of idioms like “To thine own self be true”. It loses something when Polonius’ memorable speech to Laertes is summarized as “don’t borrow or lend money” and “you cannot hide your true self”. That said, I’m always a fan of films that make Shakespeare accessible to young audiences without feeling the need to set them in high school.

Ophelia is currently on VOD.

Advertisements

10 Stars Who Kept Their Baby Daddies Secret (And 6 Who Tried But Failed)

cersei-lannister-lena-headey-lauryn-hill-megan-fox

It’s not easy being a single mother. And it’s arguably harder still to be a famous single mother. Of course, it’s not just Hollywood that shares the mentality that pregnant women and babies are fair game for public scrutiny.

It’s no wonder that some celebrities want to keep the public out of their family affairs. In 2018, the nuclear family is a myth. A baby doesn’t need one parent of each gender to have a happy, healthy upbringing. But that doesn’t stop inquiring minds from prying. When a romantically unattached star announces they are pregnant, the people must know who else was involved. And sometimes, these mothers-to-be quite rightly don’t feel like sharing.

The women (and 2 men) on this list made a choice to keep the particulars of their conception private. Some of them were successful in their attempts. Others were legally forced to spill the beans or it came out after a romantic reconciliation. In some cases, paternity is all but public record. A few women just got tired of fending off the question. Whatever the case, even celebrities have a right to raise their children however they see fit.

Here are 10 Celebrities Who Kept Their Baby Daddies Secret (And 6 Who Tried But Failed).

Read the list at Screenrant!

18 Celebrity Couples That Broke Up For Shocking Reasons

gwen-stefani-gavin-rossdale-tv-appearanceWhen it comes to the dissolution of a celebrity couple, most Hollywood types like to give the press similarly vague and diplomatic causes for their separation. “Irreconcilable Differences” is a popular catchall phrase that serves to describe the impetus for many Hollywood divorces. It can be a stand-in for all sorts of common relationship enders, such as infidelity, physical abuse, and substance issues. Sometimes, it’s as simple as their individual goals and needs changing or their lives taking different directions. But occasionally, the reasons can be a lot more complicated, and every once in a while, the inciting incidents are downright outrageous.

Some of the couples on this list experienced shocking betrayals by their partners, or succumbed to unusual addictions, taking their loved ones down with them. In other cases, they discovered they didn’t really know each other at all and were appalled to discover the truth about who they married. Sadly, children were often involved, either getting hit by the shrapnel of their parent’s explosive breakup, or occasionally even being the catalyst for the relationship’s end.

Whatever the case, buckle up and hang on to your butts as we bring you some mind-blowing revelations about 18 celebrity couples that broke up for shocking reasons!

Read the list at Screenrant!

Film Int. Review: The Love Witch

lw-01

You could never accuse writer/director Anna Biller of masking her influences. She has, to date, painstakingly created two films that would fit seamlessly within the sexploitation genre of the 60s and 70s. She follows up her sexual revolution comedy debut, Viva (2007), with The Love Witch, a film that flirts with horror, but still boasts plenty of ‘ploitation of the sexual ilk. The only clues that The Love Witch wasn’t made 60 years ago are the modern cars parked along the street. However, Biller prominently features her protagonists’ vintage automobiles, as well as ensures that every other possible detail is as period accurate as an episode of Mad Men. Trouble is, movies like this have fallen out of favor for a reason. Sure they look great – every frame and outfit makes me long to hit the flea market. But the story is also period accurate in that it peddles a brand of faux-feminism better left in the past. The protagonist is a badass because she isn’t afraid to kill to get what she wants. But what she wants is nothing more than the attention of a man – seemingly any man. You can dismiss these themes in movies from that era because they were playing within the status quo. But we’re better than that now. Maybe not a lot better, but let’s not take two steps back just to be true to the era. I prefer my throwbacks with a dash of modern ideology…

Read the rest on Film International!