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Tape

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Tape

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman
Director: Richard Linklater
Rated: NR
RunTime: 86 Minutes
Release Date: November 2001
Genre: Drama





Reviewer Roundup
1.  Harvey Karten review follows ---
2.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Are you familiar with the song, "Friendship, friendship,/ Just a perfect blendship,/ When other friendships have been forgot,/ Ours will still be hot"? Presumably the composer meant the ditty to be taken optimistically. We're regularly inundated with self- help gurus who tell us that having friends is the most important thing in the world, and perhaps they're right. But perhaps not. If familiarity breeds contempt, how about a familiarity that carries with it some profound resentment that one fellow has toward the other...even for an alleged event that occurred ten years previously while the two guys were in senior year of high school?

"Tape," a photographed play sometimes marred by dizzying camera pans and directed by Richard Linklater--is a film completely different in imaginative scope from Linklater's "Waking Life" and far more confined than his "Dazed and Confused" and "Slacker." Nonetheless the story is intermittently involving because the performers, operating in 86 minutes of real time, keep the heat up. Considering that the particular bitterness that fuels the rage of 28-year-old Vince (Ethan Hawke) appears trivial to anyone who looks at the decade-old event in perspective, Hawke provokes the theater audience to become disgusted with his immature ways. As his foil Robert Sean Leonard performs in the role of Johnny, a young man who is in Lansing to introduce his new film to an audience at the city's film festival. Vince has come from Oakland for the weekend presumably to support John's film, and when they meet--after we watch Vince bounce around the room like a kid who forgot his Ritalin--he appears overjoyed to see his buddy. After some backslapping, the two show themselves to be opposites in temperament. While Vince, an unsuccessful, callow adult who is a low-level drug dealer and volunteer firefighter is full of off-the-wall physical activity, John is still pretty much the shy goody-two-shoes he was in his high school days. The friendship between the two seems as unlikely as the bonding between Joe and Terry in Barry Levinson's movie "Bandits."

Both men are flawed characters. The outwardly saintly Johnny lectures Vince that the latter should get it together and change his life, a discourse that only increases Vince's negative feelings toward his less demonstrative friend. Determined to have the last word, Vince hammers at the goody-goody--who had stolen the affections of Vince's girl friend Amy (Uma Thurman) in senior year. Vince sees his opportunity to shatter the lofty self-image of his "friend" by making him confess to a criminal act committed against the girl by Johnny. Ethan Hawke, fresh from a spellbinding role as the naive rookie to Denzel Washington's experienced detective in "Training Day," stretches his talent in yet another film that takes place during a single day. Where Hawke is the nice kid whose corruptibility is test in Antoine Fuqua's big-budget movie, in this claustrophobic play he's a seedy guy with no ambition who is severely testing his buddy's character, determined to keep the upper hand and crush the spirit of the person who stole his girl. Uma Thurman, playing the role of Amy and showing up in the motel room after the tension is immediately palpable, sizes up the situation and, smart person that she is sets the two straight.

"Tape" plays out the quintessential definition of theater: two or more people figuratively (or literally) locked in a small location to deal with their conflicts. As a staged play it does not compare in variety or interest with John Swanbeck's three-character "The Big Kahuna"--from Roger Rueff's play "Hospitality Suite about two world-weary salesmen and a naive young colleague at an out-of- town convention. Neither Hawke nor Leonard can compare with Kevin Spacey or Danny DeVito. Isn't it difficult to believe that Johnny would masochistically stay in the room with the drug-and- beer-intoxicated Vince rather than walk out a half hour before he does? "Tape" holds us through its high-voltage in tension but is weak in credibility, wit and style.

Copyright 2001 Harvey Karten

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