Film Scouts Reviews

"In the Bleak Midwinter"

by Leslie Rigoulot

January 20, 1996

Opening the Sundance Film Festival was "Midwinter's Tale", Kenneth Branagh's little movie following his big flop, "Mary Shelly's Frankenstein". And wouldn't you know he is taking a dry look at theater, acting, movies, and through those, life. With a cast not too familiar to the American audience and a production of "Hamlet" at the center of the story, Branagh takes chances that only an independent studio would allow.

Michael Maloney puts together the odd assortment of out-of-work and desperate actors to do "Hamlet" in an English village called...Hope. Alternately acid and sugar, this is as witty and well-written as any of the best. Maloney excels at playing off against each of his eccentrics as they progress from auditions to opening night. As Branagh's protÈgÈ, he has done well in "Othello" and is currently shooting "Hamlet" with Branagh.

The two actresses most recognizable to most Americans are Joan Collins, who really can manage more than a Dynasty level of acting, and Jennifer Saunders of Comedy Central's "Absolutely Fabulous". I almost wish Saunders had a larger role but she adds her own element of rapid-fire repartee. Look for "Midwinter's Tale" to open nationwide in art house theaters soon.

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