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Not a good first attempt...but not without some merit...
This is not a good movie... No matter what some of these comments say (and I am skeptical that some of these seem to be posted by the production company given the fact that whenever a question is listed in the comments, an answer is posted from someone shortly after) this is not a good movie...
Now it was not completely wretched, the cinematography deserves every accolade that it has received, it is not simply that Oregon is pretty, it is that the pretty landscape was nicely shot. (I particularly liked the shots of Asbrey with the snow falling, both with the felled knight and afterwards) The score is also worth mentioning, this was a fully realized score, not a simple synthesizer created orchestra. It is a big help in creating a nice experience while watching the film.
That is unfortunately where my accolades must end. I am not sure where to start...
Perhaps this comment will frame my view on this movie "Lord of the G-Strings without the sex and wit" Now please listen to me...I am not holding up Lord of the G-Strings as a great piece of cinema (though it is funny from time to time), but you can see where I am going with this.
Characters: None were developed at all. I am sure there is an argument that Asbury was very well developed, given that it is his story, but it would be a weak argument. The biggest evidence of the non-existent development is the fact that only 2 characters are given names in the film. Asbury is one, and a guy who gets killed is the other. Yet in the cast list and end credits, almost everyone has a name, yet you have no clue as to who they are referring to...Is Glim the minstrel? Or the slaver? Which of the women's names is his wife's? (We assume it is his wife, but it is never said) Who was the gypsy? Why was she in that vision?
The costuming budget obviously went to Asbury and, for some reason, the foreign warrior at the end. Glim's (I found out who his is through these comments....) costume just looked odd. And all of the soldiers seemed to be wearing felt tunics with black pants they brought from home. Now I can forgive a lot of this due to the budget restrictions they were obviously under and I actually give them a lot of credit for stretching things as far as they did. Though I think giving your hero a huge scar and black eye in the first scene was kind of a mistake.
The script...well...it was just awful...it really was. The plot was very formulaic (When Asbury found the cottage we all knew that either a Beautiful woman or an old wise man would come in behind him. I called the thing about the door too, though it really came out of left field.) The dialogue was almost thrown in as an afterthought. There also seemed to be a very forced "He must loose all of his stuff" scene. Why would he have taken both swords into the fight? And a swordsman would never sleep with his blade stuck in the ground as he slept...it would damage the blade, even if it was just sand. Nitpicky I know, but there needs to be attention to detail in order for any film to work. Because of this, the acting is a toss up. It is sometimes hard to tell if an actor is doing his best with bad dialogue, or if they are making bad dialogue worse. I would not say that any of them are good actors, though the old man was oddly quite a bright spot. Glim was especially bad, while I was sitting there I thought of at least 5 more appropriate ways to deliver almost all of his dialogue. Now this may not completely be his fault, but I will address this next. (As an aside, this actor also wrote the entire score to the film...and bravo to him for it, but he should stick with his day job...or his night job...whichever one the music is.)
Finally is the direction, now this is where I think the movie was lacking most of all. As has been said before, there are far too many shots that are held for far too long. Asbury walks...a lot...alone...not talking...at all. Or he looks into the distance for a long long time. (The sideways shot in this scene however is very nice, but would have been equally poignant at half the length) Or he runs...a long long way...it is like that scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where Lancelot is getting closer and closer to the castle. A little cutting down of those scenes would have opened the door for (here's a novel idea) more plot or at least better development of the backstory. SPOILER Especially why his wife was killed and what that had to do with his disenchantment with his calling as a protector. Or were the two things not related? END SPOILER I also think that the director is a little bit to blame with the poor performances of some of the actors. Surely he could have coaxed out slightly better performances. Take Asbury's many angry scenes. A little bit better editing or re-thinking of the scenes would have turned them from the little tantrums that they were, into genuine moments of agony and rage. There are plenty more things to address, but this comment is turning from a comment into an essay, so that is where I will leave it.
The Fantasticks (1995)
As I figured...
As I am reading the comments here I am finding that they are just as I has thought. Some are voraciously against this adaptation, these all seem to be those that are purists of the original stage play. Some are rabidly in love with it, these are primarily families and those that love Joey (sorry, Joe) McIntyre. But the majority, of which I include myself, simply like it.
I watched this with an open mind since I love the original play and had to watch it a second time to really see how I felt about it. Some of the modifications are admittedly baffling, such as the rewrite of "Metaphor", but by no means really detract that much from the original. If there is one thing you can see from this production it is that Hollywood does not know how to deal with a musical anymore. They all panic about marketability and political correctness which can ruin a great show. That being said, I still really enjoyed this production. The addition of the Carnival allowed for a fanciful feel while still grounding the main characters in reality. The character of El Gallo is allowed more freedom to orchestrate the romance between Louisa and Matt by taking a theatre convention of the omniscient observer and applying it to a film. We in the theatre are used to seeing a character come on and off stage, setting scenes and so forth, yet it is a convention rarely used in film but can be done far more effectively since the character does not have to worry about getting set pieces on and off and can simply be a mystical figure. The performances are wonderful, though Joel Grey is woefully underused. Jean Kelly is fabulous as she always is (Uncle Buck, Mr. Holland's Opus). Joe McIntyre is not the greatest actor but his lack of skill adds to the awkwardness of Matt that is revealed once reality sets in. Jonathon Morris is a fabulous El Gallo, much more charming and witty than some of the "salesman-like" El Gallo's I have seen. All in all the things that differ from the original play do not detract from the film itself. All they do is differ from the play. Would that this filmed production were done on stage it would be a mere shadow of the original stage version, but that is why this is a movie and that is a play.