Ophelia (2018)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on October 27, 2018 @ tonymacklin.net.

Did you know that author Lisa Klein is the new William Shakespeare?

Neither did I. I do know that she was denied tenure at the Ohio State University, and she sure has gotten revenge against the English department.

Ms. Klein wrote a young adult novel titled Ophelia in which she put Shakespeare through the feminist mixer.

What was Willie doing making Ophelia crazy? Lisa knows better - Ophelia was really a strong, modern female, who prevailed over the system. Willie was the crazy one.

The late movie critic Pauline Kael once called a popular musical, "a musical for people who don't like musicals." Ophelia is a Shakespeare movie for those who don't like Shakespeare.

More exactly Ophelia is a movie that should really appeal to teenage girls who don't read Shakespeare.

Director Claire McCarthy, with the help of screenwriter Semi Chellas, brings Ophelia to the screen. McCarthy is tearing down something that is classic for something that is minimally entertaining.

At its best, Ophelia has a provocative premise, but it veers out of artistic control. It makes changes in Shakespeare's characters and plot that make them less distinctive and more conventional. In the new version, Ophelia and Hamlet marry, she becomes Wonder Woman by surviving with lungs full of water at the bottom of a river - maybe the modern Ophelia has no lungs, she goes into the nunnery with child and psyche intact, and the ending which lost me is a wild, lethal melee with Claudius reaching a dire fate that seems written by a trite man. Or woman.

A lot of Ophelia was shot in the Czech Republic. Shakespeare's England wasn't available. How about Texas?

But McCarthy does utilize locale effectively - an impressive towering castle, wracked ruins, and lovely natural settings. Cinematographer Denson Baker creates evocative images - glowing candles, bright torchlight, floating petals on shimmering water.

It is ironic that George MacKay, the actor who portrays Hamlet is the weak link. He looks like he just came straight from Supercuts. As Hamlet deteriorates, MacKay uses dark eyeliner, but eyeliner isn't acting. A more bland Hamlet than MacKay there has never been.

Blandness abounds. Mia Quiney, who plays the young Ophelia has a scrubbed bland visage. When Gertrude rubs off a smudge, it's a phantom gesture.

Daisy Ridley makes a comely adult Ophelia. But she's no Rey.

Naomi Watts portrays two characters - Queen Gertrude and her sister the witch Mechtid, and Watts wields a hell of a sword.

The most credible actor is Clive Owen, who plays Claudius with nasty panache.

I've always feared that the classics face someone intruding on them, and leaving a mess behind.

Please Lisa and Claire don't do Citizen Kane from the perspective of Susan Alexander Kane. Or The Catcher in the Rye from the perspective of Phoebe.

And please leave Lady Macbeth alone - she's already an inimitable force. She doesn't need tenure.

But a frenzied sword duel between Queen Gertrude and Lady Macbeth might be a winner. It could be a big hit on Pay Per View.

© 2000-2018 Tony Macklin