There are simply times (often many times) when one decides to watch a film merely to enjoy watching a favored actor perform, regardless of the expectations of the film itself. And if the film looks not to be very good, then lowering personal expectations in order to continue to enjoy the film is in order.
However, there are also times when one should not make the mistake of confusing the lowering of personal standards in order to enjoy what might not be a very good film, with just plain, out-and-out stupidity.
I went mad with joy when I found that English actor Richard Bremmer was going to be in a movie that was actually going to be shown on American television. He is almost exclusively a stage performer. And unfortunately, very little of British television broadcasts or productions can be accessed in the United States, so that usually killed that option for me to be able to see him.
I tripped over my feet, running to park myself in front of my TV.
It served me right.
I knew full well that there could not possibly be any "version" of "Crime and Punishment" that could be portrayed in two hours. Even if every word of dialogue were cut and the characters used sandwich boards--it still could not be done. I knew that, so I smirkingly "lowered my expectations." What I should have done was to put my eyes out, stick my fingers in my ears, and have run shrieking out into the night, because THAT would have at least made sense. More so than this movie.
I didn't expect a good job of work, far from it. Not in two hours. I didn't expect good writing (I was at least not disappointed) and I did not even expect good acting. Not with the constraints. What I didn't expect, however, was such an intentional and hideous distortion of character of the story's protagonist, Rodya Raskolnikov. Rodya's character was forcibly twisted into a grotesque parody of "good guy" in the opening of the story, seemingly so that it could either serve as a vehicle for the young and painfully handsome Patrick Dempsey, or in the assumption that the American audience was too illiterate and stupid not to be able to understand the concept of "tragedy".
Or possible both.
This was an insult both to the story itself and to a fine cast. A lack of direction for Dempsey was apparent, also. He couldn't seem to understand the concept of "hysteria", which was the essence of Rodya's personality, and instead resorted to ridiculous movements and twitchings. This was sheer laziness on the part of director Joseph Sargent. He did not take out the time to teach the role to an actor who has a tendency towards being physically hyperactive in much of his work. The film makers took a character who was not a noble character in any way and turned him into nothing more than a clown.
Establishing the character of Rodya is the first and foremost thing in any production of "Crime and Punishment", no matter how restrained the time or budget might be. He must be established. The book itself is heavily reliant on speech, and there never has been a way to trim it for either a lengthy theatrical film or a television series, neither of which this production was.
The point of the novel's story was that Rodya caused unbearable and needless agony and suffering to himself. And that he went into it willingly and with a perverse pleasure. That was a part of the "crime" and also a part of the "punishment." He wallowed in his own self-induced emotional pains, and he enjoyed it. He fed on his own agonies. The novel's Rodya was an emotional masochist. He was not the classical figure of Greek tragedy. It is this spot alone where the writer and director failed majestically.
If Rodja's character is not established in the beginning of a film, then the entire story collapses and the film can from then on only be a sequence of loosely-stitched together scenes. Even Richard Bremmer and Ben Kingsly, whose incredible performances and clear understanding and interpretations of their respective characters, could not save this film. It was destroyed within the first five minutes. Bremmer and Kingsly are glorious actors and they were wasted in a way I've never seen.
It just didn't play.
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