There’s probably not a soul left on
the planet, save John Waters and Justin Bieber, who wouldn’t get a massive
image boost by having themselves played on screen by Helen Mirren. The lady is
truly running the board and her and director Julie Taymor’s Christmas present
to us: The Tempest -- a play many consider a great summing up by Mr.
William Shakespeare – is a sublime illustration of how a bold theatre voice can
inject something truly magical into a much loved but frequently misunderstood
Taymor’s boldest conceit: that the
exiled magician Prospero should in Mirren’s hands become ex-duchess of Milan
with scores to settle and late life wisdom to dispense, is a brilliant stroke
that reinvents virtually every relationship in the play without necessarily
invoking the anti-revisionist – “keep your feminist, post modern hands off my
Shakespeare” wrath of the irascible scholar Harold Bloom. Turing Prospero into
a wily wizard mom casts new light especially on the young lovers Miranda
(Felicity Jones) and Ferdinand (Reeve Carney) as well as the eternally
disgruntled slave Caliban (Djimon Hounsou) and, of course, Prospero’s right
hand angel boy Ariel -- Ben Whishaw provides the Puck like spirit the proper
mix of mischief and sensuality without morphing into Tinker Bell.
Taymor – still struggling to get
her Spider-Man aloft on Broadway – here fills an enormous cinema gap:
there’s really no good Tempest on celluloid – the highly eccentric Peter
Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books comes the closest, only to be shot down by
Leonard Maltin’s movie sex police for “a mindboggling amount of nudity.” For
In addition to Harry Potter worthy
digital effects, Taymor’s great achievement is a stellar ensemble: Russell
Brand, Tom Conti, Chris Cooper, Alan Cumming support Mirren’s commanding lead
to give us Shakespeare’s peerless speeches in a middle Atlantic style that
soars and is always comprehensible to these dialect challenged American ears.
The stuff that dreams are made of indeed!