“The Tempest” movie stars Helen Mirren as Prospera. So how can Roger Ebert gives it a thumbs down? These are 8 reasons why you should watch this Shakespeare film anyway.
Casting: Robert Ebert acknowledges that the cast starting with Helen Mirren is great. Above all, saying that a Shakespeare movie is no good except for the performances is like saying that the Louvre is nothing special except for the art.
Equal Time for Witches: Changing the magician Prospero’s sex enables director Julie Taymor to make her betrayal by her brother even more poignant with added lines about witchcraft. We’re reminded of all the women accused of sorcery and murdered when they interfered with a man’s ambitions. Just think Anne Boleyn.
Mother-Daughter Relationships: A female Prospera also creates more empathy in her relationship with her daughter Miranda. Their conversations about feelings and romance seem more natural than when Miranda was speaking with her father.
The Flaws Are Easily Overlooked: Yeah, Ariel looks like he got stuck in a bad MTV video. Still, the much criticized special effects are less distracting than I feared. I groaned a little when Ferdinand sings his lines, but he never amounted to much more than a boy toy for Miranda anyway.
Unsolved Mystery: Some guy in the audience walked out in Act IV. I’d like to think he was overwhelmed by the profundity. Unfortunately, I worry that those studies about how people’s vocabularies are shrinking means they can’t follow Shakespeare films anymore.
Forgiveness: “The Tempest” is all about forgiveness. I’m mystified by Roger Ebert’s claim that there’s no reconciliation here. I saw a Prospera who combines the good and the bad, and a Caliban who’s menacing and sympathetic. I’ll never forget Helen Mirren discovering that she should be able to show at least as much sympathy for her fellow creatures as the non-human Ariel does.
The Past is Prologue: It’s interesting to keep up with the latest addition in this line of Shakespeare movies. It’s makes we want to revisit previous Tempest adaptations by Derek Jarman, Paul Mazursky, and Peter Greenaway.
Who Is Roger Ebert Calling King?: Maybe it’s just a typo but Roger Ebert refers to King Gonzalo. Someone at the Chicago Sun-Times should have noticed Gonzalo is a counselor not a king.
I don’t think Roger Ebert should be shipwrecked for giving “The Tempest” a thumbs down, but Helen Mirren and the rest of the cast deserve better.