A teacher lives a lonely life, all the while struggling over his son's custody. His life slowly gets better as he finds love and receives good news from his son, but his new luck is about to be brutally shattered by an innocent little lie.
Thomas Bo Larsen,
Based on a three-character, one-act play, Tape is set entirely in Room 19 of a seedy motel in Lansing, Michigan rented by Vince, an ill-tempered, outgoing party animal/drug dealer who's visited by his old high school friend Jon, a documentary filmmaker, where they pass the time reminiscing about the good old times which take a turn when Vince records their conversation with Jon admitting to a possible date-rape of Vince's old girlfriend Amy, who later shows up and opens up a new wave of talk and arguments about whose story is fact or fabricated. Written by
The set is not an actual motel room, as many viewers assumed, but carefully constructed (and designed by Stephen Beatrice) on a sound stage and including many remarkable details, such as the curtain being cut around the air conditioner, and stains on the wall that betray missing pictures. See more »
When Jon enters the hotel room the door appears only just ajar behind him, when we return to Jon from a shot of Vince the door is wide open, the next shot it is back to its original position. See more »
What you think I'm a dick?
Uh, no. But I do know that occasionally you have a tendency to act in a phallic fashion.
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The end credits move across the screen in the motions of tape inside a playing cassette. See more »
This film took me two days to decide whether I liked it or not. When the final credits rolled, rather creatively at that, I couldn't figure out if this was pure brilliance on the part of Richard Linklater, or if it was nothing more than a group of friends trying to make an independent film. I could not decide. I even listened to the audio commentary of Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater to see if I could capture their mood of the film to hopefully influence mine. While it was a very interesting audio commentary, it only provided more indecisiveness. After thinking about this for two days, I finally thought about it long enough and realized that if a film makes you think for two days after viewing, there has to be something spectacular about it, and there was. After two days I was able to put my finger on it. You had a very chilling story, a deeply disturbing confession, a powerhouse of acting by Robert Sean Leonard and Uma Thurman, and then there was Ethan Hawke. I put him aside because it was his acting, his portrayal of Vince that took away the inches of film that nearly made it into perfection. Let me explain.
This is a story, that on the surface seems small, is very large in structure. While its only setting is inside a motel room, the written word by Stephen Belber transforms this into a thrilling drama about past lives and future consequences. From the opening scene of Hawke throwing his beers into the motel door until the final dramatic conclusion where Vince is caught up in the web of his own lies, we never really know anything about him. Leonard talks briefly about what he is doing and why he is currently single, but we never really get to know Ethan's character. This is what muddled in my mind for those two days, I continually had to ask myself who Vince really was. Was he a friend trying to help Leonard with a guilty conscious, or was he on the side of Amy trying to give her the conclusion that she wanted. Who knows? I think I needed more structure with Ethan's Vince. We needed more from Linklater to help us understand this self-appointed villain, or even more from Ethan to reveal his ultimate purpose. Instead, what occurred was Ethan just jumping around being annoying with no purpose except what you could hear Linklater telling him. Here is what I could hear: "Ok, Ethan, your purpose in this scene is to ensure that Leonard doesn't leave, do whatever it takes". Ethan takes this direction and adds a couple of swear words and uses screaming to keep him in the room instead of countering with more plot. Does this make sense? I felt like I knew why Leonard and Thurman were there in that room, but WHY Ethan was bringing them together was never told. I know that perhaps it was left up to the viewer, but this story needed a hint. It needed to provide some reasoning for the situation. I felt Ethan held us back from learning that. Someone else in the role may have done better, but Ethan just felt lost and stagy.
As I said before, Leonard and Thurman really carried this film on their shoulders. I was impressed to see Leonard taking such heavy work, but his true acting ability really came forth. The same goes for Uma who successfully took the idea of "husband and wife" away while working with Ethan. I was concerned that it would be a factor in Tape, but luckily these two were able to keep their characters separate. The chemistry that Leonard and Thurman had on screen was shattering. I found myself holding my breath during their parts from both emotion and the tension that they created. Outside of Ethan, they did a great job.
The story was a very tight story. I loved being brought into the middle of this controversy and seeing that a world can be created and destroyed in a hotel room. I thought that concept was a hard one to tackle, but Stephen Belber (who also wrote the play) did a fantastic job of eliminating the corporate element and giving us the pure human drama that exists between these characters. Linklater likewise really pulls this film together well by keeping the tensions high and elaborate as our characters progress through the phases of this predicament. The only trouble I had with Linklater's direction deals with his swirling camera. Whenever two people were talking to each other we found ourselves swirling between the two instead of using one large shot or quick cuts. I thought this was annoying at times, and quite dizzying. It detracted from the words that the actors were speaking and from the impact of the story. That is my only critique of Linklater's direction, which was nearly flawless.
Overall, this was an impressive and very intense drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat due to its strong reality and human element. It took me a while for me to realize this, and will probably take some time for it to sink into your mind, but that is the nature of this film. It is created to leave this lasting impression on your mind and to haunt your mind during your next visit with friends. I think Linklater did an excellent job with the material that he was handed, proving that his work could be compared to early Cameron Crowe material. Leonard and Thurman explode onto the scene, while Hawke leaves a bit more to be desired. I do believe that Linklater should have considered another actor for his role. Either way, this was a great film that took away the classic Hollywood backdrop and gave us nothing but 100% pure acting.
Grade: **** out of *****
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