Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) Poster

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Perfect Movie-making
Rathko28 February 2005
An undisputed classic that chronicles every appalling moment of a drunken night in hell as middle-aged George and Martha tear each other, and their guest, to pieces.

Elizabeth Taylor proves categorically that she was a truly great actress. Her Oscar-winning performance as the psychologically tormented Martha is one of the greatest performances in the history of cinema. Taylor's imperceptible shifting from sadism to tenderness, from bullying condescension to exhausted vulnerability, is a masterclass in character building. Martha is a truly monstrous character, and yet Taylor is able to imbue her with sympathy, allowing you brief glimpses of the warm and lovable woman she could have been.

Richard Burton is equally magnificent as George; an ageing, failing college professor whose initial meekness gives way to a raging torment all of his own. His verbal sparring with Taylor, like two pit-bulls in the ring of an endless and bloody dogfight, has become legendary. Every word drips with malice and contempt, every sentence is designed to cut the deepest wound. At times, it becomes painful to watch, but like true train-wreck television, you cannot drag yourself away from the inevitably terrible conclusion.

Quite possibly, this is as close to perfect as movies can get; beautifully written dialogue, deeply complex characters, an evolving and suspenseful storyline, beautiful photography, and a wonderfully understated score by Alex North. Nominated for 13 Academy Awards in 1967, but lost out to A Man for All Seasons and Born Free to win only 5.

"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" "I am."
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Still powerful, harrowing view of the "Anti-Ozzie and Harriet"
rwalker-23 July 2000
This is still an exceptional film from the 1960s. Though some of the epithets are obviously softening much stronger words, the language is frank and brutal, Martha's bludgeoning body-blows balanced by George's icepick thrusts. Edward Lehman's respectful screenplay gently opens up Edward Albee's one-set play while keeping a certain claustrophobic atmosphere. Mike Nichols' first directing effort is stunning in its lack of artifice; rarely do you feel that the director has done much more than turn on the camera and watch four actors, all at the top of their game, tear into their roles. George Segal's work in this movie is criminally underrated, but his reactive work as studly, ultimately disappointing Nick should be mandatory study by all young actors. Sandy Dennis' fluttery turn as mousy, wifey Honey is powerful also; a lot more is going on than you might think. Richard Burton is staggering as George ("Georgie Porgie Put-upon Pie"), and his performance demonstrates the magic that he could bring to a worthy role. Elizabeth Taylor's work here still astounds. The physical transformation she undertook to become aging harpy Martha is amazing enough, but her performance seems to channel a hurricane's force and fury. By turns hilarious, maddening and then, at the end, exhausted and defeated yet again, Taylor demonstrates acting, particularly film acting, at its best. The film is by no means easy or "Hollywood" in feel-- the audience is as exhausted as the characters at the end. But this was a bracing, necessary antidote to the impossible ideal of marriage usually portrayed in the movies. A towering film.
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Distilled Human Viciousness
OttoVonB4 June 2007
Ailing couple George (Burton) and Martha (Taylor) invite a young couple over for a late-night drink - much to quiet and repressed George's annoyance - and what starts off as a twisted game by sultry Martha to annoy her husband and get her way with young stud Nick (George Segal) ends up in a horrific duel of wits.

Adapted from the play and boasting very few locations, "Virginia Woolf" is notable for many unsuspected reasons. Designed for the stage, the film makes the story uniquely cinematic and tense, amped up by stunning photography (in Black and White, a daring choice in 1966). The younger leads are superb, but Burton and Taylor still manage to walk away with film, giving stunning renditions of the world's most demented couple. They make the surreal dialogue hurt and touch in ways never thought possible.

Though there are countless reasons to recommend this jewel of a film, there are also reasons why one would wish to avoid it. This is the kind of film that makes you feel like having a showing (or a very concentrated drink) to wash away the grit and human evil and pain absorbed. You'll feel dirty, but in a way you'll also feel enlightened: that a small character film can carry more punch than any explosion-packed blockbuster out there is a thing of beauty indeed!
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Best acting you'll ever see
einar_magnusson12 January 2005
Who's afraid of Virgina Wolf? contains what I would call the most outstanding old school actor/audience experience I'ver ever seen. This movie is 131 minutes long and only contains 5 actors, on of which hardly gets any screen time and the two leading characters played by the famous couple Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor are on screen almost the whole time. Also this movie only contains a couple of locations so the whole project depends almost entirely on these two actors superb performance. The two of them fight almost the entire movie and it never gets boring for a second. Well, I gave this movie ten stars..... definitely a classic must see if you're interested in acting.
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That's what comes from too much alcohol and too few mutual respect
RWiggum9 July 2003
'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf' tells the story of two couples that are quite different at first sight - one used to each other for years, the other one rather freshly wed in comparison. Actually it doesn't tell their story, but it displays their relationships.

The film begins on a Sunday morning at 2 o'clock, right after a party, and ends just after the sun rises. In these few hours we get to know these four people better then we might possibly want.

George and Martha are the older couple. He is a history professor, she is the daughter of the head of the university. Their relationship seems to be from hell, full of mutual disgust and humiliation. Their guests are Nick and Honey. He is the new, ambitious biology professor, she is his naive young wive. As all these four characters are more or less drunk throughout the entire film, alcohol works as a catalyst, and we quickly see the different kind of character traits they have: George is a cynic, Martha loves to torment her husband, Nick is an opportunist and Honey is very much a stupid blonde.

The two relationships deserve closer examination: We wonder why Martha and George married in the first place. They keep swearing at each other. Martha can't stop humiliating George, when they are alone as well as when Nick and Honey are there. Maybe there is still a rest of love in them, but there mutual respect has vanished completely. And then there is the strange story of their son, who is supposed to visit on his birthday. They way George and Martha talk about him make us feel that there is something peculiar about him. At the end we get to know more about him, and we can only guess how important the son is for their relationship.

Nick and Honey, on the other hand, seem to be quite the opposite. But, being used as weapons by the older couple, we see that their relationship isn't as perfect as it seems to be, either. Nick didn't marry Honey because he loved her, but because he thought she was pregnant and because of her money. And when Martha tries to seduce him to tease George, he plays the game with her, always in mind that this woman's father is the head of the university. Honey, on the other hand, is much more emotional than her husband, but she also is the most passive character, and the one most affected by the alcohol.

Mike Nichols assembled an outstanding cast for his film. Casting Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as Martha and George is a stroke of genius - not only are they terrific actors, but it also heats the imagination of the viewer how much their real-life-marriage resembled the relationship they had in this film. Elizabeth Taylor outshines her co-stars a little. Never was she any better than in this one; although her character is the meanest in the film, she manages that we still feel compassion for her at the end. But Richard Burton, George Segal and especially Sandy Dennis deliver memorable performances, too.

'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf' succeeds at something rather difficult: It makes us care for characters we wouldn't want to have anything to do with in real life. And although it actually consist of nothing but four people talking for two hours, it never bored us for a second.
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One of the greatest
Progbear-419 April 2000
Simply put, this is one of my favourite films of all time. Great acting, great writing and great camerawork make this close to cinematic perfection. Liz Taylor and Richard Burton give the performances of their lives. Sandy Dennis also shines in an early-ish role. It's a dramatic film, but the wicked humour that permeates the film is absolutely devastating, and I mean that in the best possible way. Many moments in the film I find myself laughing only to think, "Should I be laughing at this." Certainly the film is loaded with uncomfortable moments, enhanced by the camerawork replete with uneasy close-ups. Most of all, this film shows how a lot can be accomplished with just a little: a cast of four and minimal scenery changes. "Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf" has become an absolute icon of American cinema. If you haven't seen it, what are you waiting for?
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probably one of the best arguments for why AA should exist; volatile, overwrought drama at its richest
Quinoa19844 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf leaves no scabs or stones unturned with the characters. George and Martha are a couple who have a marriage that is truly love-hate. They can never be called too unemotional, though to say whether or not they're being truthful at all in the 'games' they play with married Nick and Honey is a little trickier. Martha invited them- at her father's insistence (he IS the chairman of the university where George and Nick are professors)- at two in the morning for a quick drink. Or rather, make that many drinks, like chain drinking, if one could call it that, where George and Martha prove themselves as pros in that area, with bitter slinging of enraged bouts of bile at one or the other.

This goes on the rest of the night, also leading to a roadhouse on the way to drive a flustered Nick and hammered Honey home, and then it starts all over again, with Nick and Honey picking up the tortured and, as well, fractured personalities of this middle-aged couple. Bitter, enraptured, hateful, and, in a way, also sort of filling a void, George and Martha become two of the most powerful characters in modern drama.

Edward Albee's play is full of the kind of stinging dialog that made it controversial in the 1960s, and today it still retains its potential for hitting its characters on to the audience in a shockingly overwrought and, in connection with this, very funny manner. How can one not cringe and give a laugh of relief/perplexity when George goes to get a shotgun after getting p-o'd by Martha and then opening it up to everyone's shock as... an umbrella!

There's a dementia to these characters, but it's one that makes for the kind of drama that is lacerating and, as off-putting as the guessing game that the son element becomes in the equation (dead or not dead?), it somehow works. This was before most dramas of today, which are made with that big colossal twist that suddenly jolts the characters into perspective. Here, it just makes them more human and fallible and deconstructed. As Mike Nichols directs it, he doesn't shy from getting personal with his angles, close and intrinsic as, in a weird way comparable with, Bergman's Persona, also released that year.

What Nichols and Albee present for audiences is a logical next step following other plays from before them that broke ground from the likes of Miller, Beckett and, especially, Williams- it's more adult, or rather more for mature audiences (the first quasi rated R movie ever released), and it hits to a cynical nerve that was further gestating by this time in America, that everything would not be alright in the American marriage, that something, as Martha says, will "SNAP!"

It should also be mentioned, acting here is classic, fearless. Burton and Taylor have rarely been as good as they are at digging so deep into these characters that, especially with Burton, we can't imagine these people being anyone else. It takes a little to get used to Segal and Sandy Dennis (the latter because her character isn't quite as "deep" as the others), but then again their characters are the uncomfortable outsiders, "us" as one might say (however, as the play peels the layers away from the characters they're all rotten and ultimately very vulnerable instead of just "normal").

It packs a punch, it jiggles its little glass full of bourbon or brandy or gin, and as a first feature from its director it could only get better from here. It's a dangerously fun, dangerously emotionally violent picture. Will look forward to seeing it next time it's on TV
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"George and Martha,.......sad........sad........sad"
bkoganbing27 June 2006
Edward Albee's award winning play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf ran for 664 performances on Broadway and just closed down when this film version made its debut in 1966. The Broadway play was set entirely in the living room of George and Martha's home and starred Uta Hagen, Arthur Hill, Melinda Dillon, and George Grizzard. All eminently respectable players, but none of them exactly movie box office.

This film was destined to make money when the most publicized couple of the decade, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, chose it as a star vehicle for themselves. Of course what was not clear was how well a one stage play would adapt to film.

It adapted very well and went quite beyond one stage. The action of the film moved effortlessly to an all night diner at one point with some stops along the way. You'd hardly know the story as originally told only had one setting.

There's no real plot to it. For reasons I can't fathom this middle aged and bitter couple George and Martha have a younger couple, Nick and Honey, over to their house at two in the morning. I don't know about you, but I'm usually not my best at that time. Also they had just come from a party at Martha's father's house. Martha's dad is the president of a college and George teaches there. Nick and Honey are a newly hired professor and his wife.

The late night and the liquor bring out the worst in everybody. A whole lot of ugly truths get told.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf was the summit of the professional team of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Playing against type, Elizabeth Taylor got her second Oscar the one she felt she earned. She always disparaged the one received for Butterfield 8 as it came on the heels of her well publicized pneumonia bout.

In fact all four members of the cast were nominated with Sandy Dennis winning Best Supporting Actress. Ironically Richard Burton didn't win, losing to Paul Scofield for A Man for All Seasons. I guess the Academy voters figured Burton would get another shot. He never brought home the big prize though.

George Segal usually gets overlooked. This film and Ship of Fools was the start of his long career, but no Oscar for him either.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is quite the indictment against marriage, especially after the love has died. It's far from the whole story of marriage. There are many who stay married longer than George and Martha and happily. But it wasn't in Edward Albee's life experience to draw from.

But this should be seen to see Liz and Dick at their very best.
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powerful and emotionally draining
ltpt115 July 2001
This is one of the most powerfully written and acted movies I have ever seen. I was emotionally drained at the end and could not imagine how actors could have done this on Broadway night after night. The terrible verbal inhumanities Taylor and Burton inflicted on each other were done so well, one never knew what was truth and what was game. A must see if you can handle such a well acted but emotionally traumatic film.
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Friction, Tension, Rage & Resentment...
Xstal7 September 2020
...add the catalysers youth and alcohol and wait for the sky to fall down. Seldom will you encounter such overwhelmingly magnificent performances as those found here - quite literally, breathtaking and unsurpassed.
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One of the more stunning feature directorial debuts in film history . . .
TRhett16 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Legendary director Mike Nichols certainly started with a "bang." Thank God he didn't end up like so many others - with one "firecracker" followed by a long, sad series of fizzles. But to understand what an achievement WAOVW is, one must keep in mind the context. Firstly, you have arguably the two most famous (infamous?) people on Earth, who were demanding and receiving unheard of (for the time) remuneration and treatment for their efforts - and living the lifestyle said remuneration provided (they lunched with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor during production) - as the stars. Elizabeth didn't have to be on set until 10 a.m., and her aging makeup took 2.5 hours. By the time that was finished, it was lunchtime, so filming didn't begin until 1 or 2 p.m. most days. I heard Mike NIchols say in an interview once, "What are you going to do? Your stars are so big, they're dining with royalty. That's not the sort of person you can pull aside and chastise for being late like Lindsay Lohan or someone." Also, Burton's lifestyle was catching up with him, and his health was not the greatest (he couldn't work every day), not to mention the quasi-Victorian "code" movies of the time were expected to follow, and you have a recipe for what could have been a disaster.

This film is often called a "landmark" for its frank depiction of theretofore taboo subjects like serious alcoholism, spousal abuse, mental illness, abortion, adultery, infertility, overt sexuality, etc. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, this was the first film to carry an age limit "rating," and was also provided the genesis of what would become the MPAA and its rating system. How this got past the studio's "guardians of decency" in 1966, I'll never know.

Luckily, Elizabeth really wanted this to work, and held their end together long enough for them to deliver what was their finest hour together. The first time I saw this, I was shocked by Liz's performance (among other things). She is on record as having said, "I never had an acting lesson in my life; everything I've done, I've just created on the spot." I don't know what was in that "spot," but it certainly served her well here.

I won't go into the story arc, as I'm sure everyone here knows it by now, but let's just say that the 32 year-old (!) Liz shed ALL vanity to play 50 year-old floozy Martha (when Nichols first told her what weight she needed to be, she said, "Thank God . . . I don't have to diet"). And it worked. Right from the start. My favorite line comes early in the film, as she's describing the Bette Davis picture she's quoting from . . . "What a dumPPPP!" and in the middle of her description, she pauses perfectly, puts her hand on her hip, looks at mousy Burton, and says, "She's discontent." Pretty much "set the scene" for what follows right there.

There has been some criticism that George Segal was not the best choice for Nick, but apparently all the "big" actors turned down the role because of its nature: 2.5 hours of humiliation and torture at the hands of George - which the ambitious Nick feels he has no choice but to sit there and take. By today's standards, it might be a bit extreme, but as I said, you have to keep context in mind (and apparently, there are still people who play these types of "parlor games," BION).

Bottom line: if you've not seen this, do so immediately. Once you've recovered from the first viewing, watch it again, and you'll be amazed at the subtle but stinging wit throughout. Honey to George: "They dance like they've danced before." George: "It's a common dance, monkey nipples . . . they're both very familiar with it." Honey: "I don't know what you mean." George looks at her with disbelief, opens his mouth to say something, and then you can see his brain thinking, "Oh, what's the use?" so he closes his mouth and turns his head. All in all, there are enough layers and meat here for many viewings and discussions.
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Simply put: fascinating.
NoArrow22 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers
It's hard for me to accept a film as perfect. This is partly because of IMDb – the movie ranked highest on the Top 250 list ('The Godfather') has a mere 9.0, meaning there is ten points worth of things wrong with even the best film ever made. What IMDb voters fail to realize is that if a movie has an intention – a purpose – and it serves that purpose effortlessly and hits every note that it's supposed to hit without even the remotest hint of an off key, it is perfect by its own right, and therefore worthy of a ten out of ten. 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' is one of those movies.

The plot is ecstatically simple: a troubled married couple (Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton) has a younger and – we assume – happier couple (George Segal and Sandy Dennis) over late at night for quick drinks. The reason for the get together is that Martha's (Taylor) father runs the university where George (Burton) and Nick (Segal) work, and the father told them to 'be nice' to the younger couple, so Martha invited them over for a late party. Like I said, the plot is simple, but the characters are so deep and complex it'd take a whole lot more than 1,000 words to describe them correctly (but I'll try with what I got).

The film starts with George and Martha coming home from a late party. Both are drunk (Martha is a loud and obnoxious drunk but George just has a headache) and Martha constantly berates George when he fails to come up with the name of the Bette Davis movie she's thinking of (and dozens other reasons). It's early in the movie so we don't know if her insults are for real or if they're just a way of being playful with her husband. George acts to stone faced that we can't tell if he's being hurt or played with.

It's when Nick and Honey (Sandy Dennis) come over that we get to really see how George feels. Martha insults him, calls him names, yells at him while Nick and Sandy look on, baffled as to whether they should laugh or not. As the insults keep on coming George's anger and hurt grow, and the tensions reach a high when he takes a rifle from the closet, points it at Martha and fires. But surprise! It's just a toy with an umbrella that shoots out of the barrel.

As the movie goes on the characters get drunker, angrier and some painful secrets are revealed, and the actors never lose focus. Burton is sort of disintegrating in front of our eyes, both physically and emotionally, from the drink and his wife. He starts off rigid and unbreakable but soon turns cruel and sadistic, while still keeping his sort of suave, charming personality.

Taylor won an Oscar for playing Martha, and it was an Oscar well deserved. At the beginning she looks like the most vile, unlikable character, but as thick layers are torn away we get to see the hurt and pain her character feels from years of berating George. She loves him, she says, but she doesn't deserve him because of how horrible she is. She doesn't want to be happy, but she does at the same time. We feel for this woman because she is a person, not a caricature of a drunken wife.

From when we first see him we know that there is more to Nick than meets the eye. He seems, in a way, sort of ashamed and embarrassed of his goofy wife, and doesn't put up much of a fight when Martha makes advances on him – right in front of Honey's eyes. Of course, he's not just the clichéd hotshot character of so many movies either. He has an agenda he feels he needs to use to further his career, but he doesn't like using it. He says early that he doesn't like to get involved in other's problems, and gets increasingly awkward and uncomfortable as the movie progresses. Nick also thinks he's the only sane one in the whole house, even insulting his own wife.

Sandy Dennis' Honey seems like the smallest character of the film, but her work is in the background. Watch the movie twice, and focus only on her the second time. She reacts; she is always the character who's reacting, never in control. And she has the hard task of acting like a drunken moron for the majority of the film, a task that she excels at. But she only appears as an idiot, she knows what's going on around her but she denies it and tries to act like a playful child to rid herself of the horribleness that's happening. None of this is spoken, of course, but we see it in her face. She won her Oscar for the movie too, and deserved it.

This is a horrifying film of the dangers of the lies we tell ourselves (with other themes, too, like alcoholism and marriage). It is a perfect film. Few have reached this equality of tragedy, drama, suspense and dark comedy. A recommendation to all, no one could turn away this film.

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Thoroughly unpleasant...like a two-hour plus root canal without the Novocaine.
MartinHafer7 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of those special movies that manages to be good but unwatchable at the same time. In other words, while the script may be an accurate of the most unpleasant couple in history as they spend an evening entertaining some annoying guests, some (like me) might wonder why anyone would want to see this! For example, they could film a brilliantly executed heart transplant or the removal of giant parasitical worms from someone, but why watch it? To me, the film was just too painful to endure.

Liz Taylor and Richard Burton play a couple of drunks who are married and spend all their time destroying each other. Now, according to the film it's because of the death of their son but they would have been terrible people regardless--they truly despise each other and themselves. Then, as if an afterthought, some guests arrive and actually stay and watch as this couple destroy each other right in front of them. And so, the newcomers get drunk and the drunks get drunker. Wow...now THAT'S fun! Then, tongues loosen some more and a lot of unpleasantness results.

Sure, having worked with alcoholics I understand that Taylor and Burton did an excellent job here. But for a two-hour plus film it's an endurance contest I don't wish to do again. So the overall verdict is that it's well made but thoroughly awful. If you can endure and appreciate this, fine. But if you can't, don't feel like you must. Just because it's rated so highly on IMDb does not mean it's a "must-see"--especially because this film may well leave you feeling depressed and in need of a drink!
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Don't be AFRAID to watch "Who's Afraid......"
MountainMan26 January 2004
ABSOLUTE TEN !! This is a masterpiece and it is mandatory that you watch it. If you are an adult (not for children) and have not seen this movie, please reward yourself and rent or buy the movie. Like Jonah and the great whale, you too will be swallowed, but into the overwhelming emotions of this very very great screenplay. The movie was shot in B&W with a small cast of actors, but who notices? Burton and Taylor at their absolute B-E-S-T. Like a bug-light draws moths, you will be dragged into this one.
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one long after party
aliciac160525 April 2010
There are some things about this film I liked, and something I didn't like. I loved the set. The way the house was set up it looked very real to me. This was the first film that was focus on a relationship. There not really a point to the film except watching this dysfunctional couple going at it all night. The major downfall to this film is that some of the conversation drags out, and I would begin to feel myself wondering off. The acting is good. The camera is always focused on the actors there not much going on in the back ground. The film is shot in low-key lighting which makes sense since it's a dark film in a way. The camera performs a lot of long shots. A film I would not watch again. Like I said I like some of the techniques but because of the way it drags out it didn't really keep my attention.
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Wedding Circus
emmagersten15 February 2020
Directed by Mike Nichols and written by Ernest Lehman in 1966. The cast was starring Elizabeth Taylor as Martha, Richard Burton as George, George Segal as Nick, and Sandy Dennis as Honey.

George and Martha are a married couple who is bitter and in their forties. George's character is one of passive aggression, outright anger, and despondency. Martha his wife is a socialite, passionate, and utterly hysterical. The movie starts out with Martha and George getting on each other about guests coming over. The movie overall showcases the relationship. It starts with nagging and complaints. As the guests come over and alcohol is involved things get a lot more animated. It is shown that while George and Martha do get on each other's nerves there is a method to their madness. Into the night George and Martha begin to manipulate information out of their guests by playing games with them. Sandy, Nick's wife, is an innocent but willing guest until the games go too far. Nick thinks he is ahead of the curve until George and Martha's tricks blur the lines of truth and illusion into insanity.

Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf is a black and white film. The shots are a fair mix of full shots, mid shots, and closeups. Most of the film takes place inside George and Martha's house.

I really enjoyed this film. It was a great display of what a long-term marriage could be like. A stunning example of competitiveness in action. I think it exemplifies the capitalist system.
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"...total war..."
elvircorhodzic28 October 2017
WHOS's AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? is a drama film with the elements of black comedy, that on the violent and honest way indicates marital frustration and psyche, through the alcoholism, aging, cynicism and sterility. A dangerous double game becomes more intense and urgency with environmental changes. Simply, we are going through an intimate experience, which is seasoned with an excellent acting. The problem occurs in the moment, when we realize, how much is this experience, as a matter of fact, sincere and painful.

George, an associate history professor at a small New England college, and Martha, the daughter of the university president, live in an unstable and violent marriage. After they return home drunk from a party, Martha reveals she has invited a young married couple, whom she'd met at the party, for a drink. Their guests are Nick, a biology professor, and his wife, Honey. The hosts are engaged in a cruel verbal duel. The younger couple is first embarrassed and later enmeshed. After an evening of a sadistic, perversely hilarious and dangerous „clashes", a painful truth comes to the light.

Mr. Nichols keeping his camera close, so that, violent emotions, defeats and cramps on the faces of the actors come to the fore. The direction is excellent, because it is very difficult to draw the line between passion borders and boundaries of a nervous breakdown. The characters are lost in a futile and desperate struggle, which celebrates a kind of demonic love in an attempt to save a bad marriage.

The characterization is excellent and fully corresponds with sharp dialogues and gloomy atmosphere.

Elizabeth Taylor as Martha is definitely a major figure in this film with her acceptance of gray hair and her use of profanity. It is difficult to accept that such a beautiful face hides a violent and so crazed but again, fragile and deeply wounded character. Richard Burton as George is worthy as a her counterweight. He is not a victim, he is the husband who is tired of everything, while he tries to put all the things in the right place. The couple has offered an excellent performance.

George Segal as Nick is a young man who moves between confusion, arrogance and dominance in their relations. Sandy Dennis as Honey is his bland wife. She is not up to this unscrupulous game.

This is a brutal clash between unhappy spouses who move the boundaries of inhumanity, while they skillfully flee from the truth.
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Fun And Games With George And Martha.
rmax30482324 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
For a play with only four characters and basically one setting, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" covers a lot of ground. It mostly depends on the performances and the acidic dialog because, when you get right down to it, the Big Reveal isn't too big although it's plenty bizarre.

George (Burton) is an associate professor of history at a small college. He doesn't have much in the way of ambition, we gather, because his shrewish and vulgar wife Martha (Taylor) keeps twitting him about it. Taylor is magnificently slatternly. She'd played Cleopatra a few years earlier but age cannot wither nor custom stale her infinite vulgarity.

George and Martha have two late-night guests, a newly arrived professor of biology (Segal) and his naive wife (Dennis). The evening begins with the four of them sitting around the living room with nothing special to say. But the booze flows like Niagara and they all loosen up -- not that Martha requires much loosening.

Albee's dialog is cynical, bitter, and exploitative. Cutting insults keep the viewer awake as do the sometimes embarrassing revelations, like Sandy Dennis's hysterical pregnancies and frequent vomiting. When Albee latches on to what he feels is a good turn of phrase, it gets repeated until it becomes laughable per se. "It's good that you're a biologist," Taylor tells Segal, "because you're right in the MEAT of things." She comes up with this again and again until Burton cuts her off with the observation that she's obsessed with the phrase and that it's vulgar.

The comparison of Taylor's father, who is president of the college, to a big white mouse is repeated as well. And Taylor refers to her husband as, variously, a swamp, a bog, and a fen.

Insults fly in all directions. One person may reveal a secret to another, who then runs over and trumpets the information to the others. They play what Burton calls "games", such as Humiliate the Host and Hump the Hostess. People make things up as they go along or present fantasies as historical fact. At one point, Segal knocks Burton to the floor. The exception to most of this verbal and physical violence is Sandy Dennis, who is too dumb to know what's going on much of the time.

The party lasts all night and peters out at dawn, with Segal and Dennis leaving the house in a state of shock, and Burton and Taylor exhausted by their strenuous conflict.

It's directed in a straightforward manner by Mike Nichols who doesn't pull any stylistic tricks. No flashbacks, no slow motion, no wobbling camera. That kind of razzle dazzle isn't really needed. How can you possibly pep up a volcano? I rather enjoy it. I get a kick out of its malice. Albee is gay and perhaps it takes a gay man or a straight woman to coax ignominy into such polished form. Maybe not. I don't know. I just know I like it when Burton accuses Taylor of "braying" and there follows a sharp argument over whether she "brays" or not, with Taylor sounding exactly like a mule.
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Two boring hours of obnoxious sarcasm.
ppilf11 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Although Elizabeth Taylor's acting performance is excellent (with the exception of a few instances of overacting), I didn't enjoy this film. I thoroughly disliked the characters and the screenplay. It's a difficult task sitting through a movie this depressing and boring. I had to watch it in two sittings.

The two main characters are uninteresting, crude, gloomy people whose dismal lives are engineered by their own dismal personalities. It held a morbid interest to me for about the first 20-25 minutes but then got very old very quickly. Regarding story, as far as I'm concerned there was none. The entire movie takes place during a single unbearable evening in which a new young teacher and his wife visit an unhappy, unsuccessful, drunken, obnoxious middle-aged couple of a college history department. As liquor flows the elder couple proceeds to tell the young couple the boring story of their miserable discontented personal lives, including dirty laundry, in a lengthy vulgar drunken loud argument. No plot, no moral, no endearing qualities. One descriptive adverb for this film is "over"; over-dramatic, over-acted, and mostly over-irritating; another word that comes to mind is "dumb", and another is "vulgar". The dialog of this movie is just a stream of vulgar sarcasm spewed by gloomy characters. Not my cup of tea. It gets a rating of 4 from me only because of the acting (the other three actors performances were also quite good) and the good film production.
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Ridiculous and exhausting
billpappas-125 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
*** This movie may contain spoilage *** I saw this when it came out and didn't care for it at all. The big deal at the time was Liz Taylor made up to look old and frumpy. I think she then did a later film called 'Ash Wednesday' to reverse the procedure.

Anyway, Liz and Dick were married in real life and it was reported that they had similar encounters with Jack Daniels and boisterous 'conversations' at home, so this should have been a walk-in-the-park acting job for both of them.

But, it was awful. The story was repulsive as were all the characters. I feel that trying to analyze drunken behavior in a movie is a pointless endeavor that, for some reason, actors and directors think is a life affirming philosophic inquiry......or something. I would compare this to trying to pass a driving test while drunk. It doesn't work.

Burton does his usual Shakespearean speechifying. Taylor is a caricature of whatever she is supposed to be. Bette Davis's Baby Jane Hudson was more real and realistic than Martha. At times, the lighting and camera work inside the house reminded me of very early 1950s TV soap operas.

All in all, a lousy evening for the 4 of them and me.
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Hard to explain
j-schardt11 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Its hard to explain how I felt about this film. I didn't particularly love it and at time found the dialog to go on and on, but I couldn't stop watching and wondering just what was going on. For a movie that only takes place in about four different places there house outside the house, the bar, and outside the bar, there was a lot going on. There was this awkward couple with tons of problems and a younger couple, they seem to playing with as a sort of game.This film had this dark creepy aspect to it, without ever really showing to many creepy parts except when George pulls out the fake gun and pretend to shoot Martha with they all find hilarious which just add to the whole creepy factor this film has going for it. I found this all interesting and wanted to found out more but I just didn't find it entertaining which I feel is the main job a movie has. I though Martha and George both were great and very convinces actors but at time Martha was just a little to over the top with her drunken antics. I have no idea why anyone who had couldn't have a child would accuse each other of killing it. Not the mention why wasn't George just as intoxicated as the rest, I found many inconstancy's in the whole drunk aspect, at certain points it seemed as they would just snap out of being drunk then go back into it. I think the fact it only involved four characters and I have no idea why anyone who had couldn't have a child would accuse each other of killing it played into why I wasn't entertained by this film, but I though it was well done maybe just not my taste
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Detestable characters don't always make for a detestable movie, but here they do
antagonist11717 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The challenge in making a movie about detestable people is to prevent the movie from becoming detestable by extension. Being detestable is quite a bit easier than being likable, so it is no great feat to write characters like George (Richard Burton), Martha (Elizabeth Taylor), and the feckless young couple they make privy to their spats. But to make such characters compelling and sympathetic as well—a necessity if the audience is to care about the juvenile antics happening on screen—is much more challenging. The cost of failure is the sense that the melodrama is merely contrived and devoid of relatable meaning. Ernest Lehman's adapted screenplay and Mike Nichols' directing fail to find an avenue inside George and Martha's histrionic act to make it feel like something more than merely contrived. Burton and Taylor's expert scenery chewing (the movie would tolerate nothing more artful from its actors) compensates to a degree, and in an early scene Taylor gets the chance to impersonate Bette Davis, which she does remarkably well. Still, viewers seeking a more intelligent and moving film on the theme of domestic dysfunction would do better to watch Liz in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958).
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Not that excited about the other movie
andrej-528 February 2002
The movie is about a couple that doesn't have a clue how to live. I got sick about their fighting and bickering, yelling, crying, and laughing. I was not able to relate to any of their feelings, and therefore was lost throughout the movie.

This is a movie I will not watch again. The characters are utmost annoying and incomprehensible. All throughout the movie I asked myself why they behave that way, and why isn't the guest couple leaving!

If I was the biologist invited to this party, I swear I would have left in less than 5 minutes.

Summary: This movie sucked. I admit I watched it to the end, but only because it got such high acclaim. I'm clueless why...
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You bet I'm scared of Virginia Wolfe, I'll run like hell the next time I see it!
mrsastor20 July 2006
Indeed, this is one of the worst films I have ever seen, even featuring one of my all time favorite actors, Elizabeth Taylor.

This steaming pile of yeck seems to go on for weeks, even though it takes place in one evening. It is the story (if you can call it that) of what must be the world's meanest couple getting plastered and acting like the biggest jerks in the world. This is entertainment? The characters are all both hateful and stupid, not to mention exceedingly mean-spirited. I didn't see one single character in this entire film that was not in desperate need of serious psychiatric help.

After all the hype I had great expectations for this, but it is IMHO one of the very worst films I have ever seen. You bet I'm scared of Virginia Wolfe, I'll run like hell the next time I see it!
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What's The Big Deal?
lashaune747 February 2005
I have heard about this movie since I was young, and since I am off for Mardi Gras holidays, I decided to give it a try. Because I read such great reviews, I kept giving it "15 more minutes" to get better but it never did. I did not give a crap about the couples and I found the acting forced and contrived. That blonde girl was such an idiot - I could barely even watch her pretending to act drunk. The scene with the two guys under the tree was painful to watch - it looked like they were taking cues from a frat party as to what drunk guys should look like. Maybe it's because I do not drink, but I find watching drunk people air their insecurities as amusing and entertaining as watching grass grow.
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