As summer begins, the guests arrive.
The Sony Pictures Classics narrator is giving you the hard sell in the new trailer for this latest adaptation of Anton Chekhov‘s “The Seagull.” Not sure where they find these guys and their overly convincing voices, but it’s a method of salesmanship that personally turns my stomach. One must work hard to drown out his drone and just appreciate the stellar cast of actors put on parade for us. Let’s see how well you do with that…
Did you survive all 2 minutes and 9 seconds without the need of a puke bucket? You did? Well, of course, you were able to deal with the narrator with a few eye rolls and cringes because director Michael Mayer didn’t score all those Tony nominations for commercial advertisement. He made his name on Broadway by plopping the right actors in the right parts. Moths to the flame.
Fresh from her latest Oscar-nominated turn in Lady Bird, Saoirse Ronan plays Nina. She’s the young ingenue caught up in the romantic conflicts of several bourgeois creatives as they gather at Annette Bening‘s summer house. The trailer unravels as a who’s who of award-caliber talent and showcases their ability for spitting out Chekhov’s brutal wit. “I’m in mourning. For my life.” Ah yes, Elisabeth Moss was born for Chekhov.
You’re either a sucker for these kinds of displays or you find them repellent. I’m the former. Especially when you pull Brian Dennehy out from the television dust closet, and allow him to chew through some seriously meaty dialogue. As the brother to Annette Bening’s fame-obsessed sister, Dennehy will surely shake the stage walls with his sibling frustration. His appearance alone is worthy of a ticket price.
Chekhov’s play has been adapted a few times before, the most notable version of which is Sidney Lumet’s 1968 movie which has Vanessa Redgrave in the Nina role and James Mason as her love interest. It’s a stodgy take barely suitable for classrooms. At least Mayer seems to have found room for some comedy within the melancholy.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Mayer expressed his eagerness to tackle material that’s been covered many, many, many times before:
“The play was trying to do something surprising and new: to show people behaving in naturalistic ways, to eschew histrionics and telegraphed emotions for something more nuanced. [It allowed] the actors to truly live inside the characters they were playing, and to introduce the concept of subtext to world drama.”
So often with classics, as we’ve been beaten over the head by their intellectual importance, the stories get lost to their legacy. That’s always been the joy of the cinematic adaptation. New voices tapping into old ideas, rediscovering what made them astounding in the first place, and sharing their findings with the audience. I never appreciated Jane Austin until Joe Wright took on “Pride & Prejudice.” Here were schoolroom passions injected with real, human breath. Sometimes that takes three or four or 100 go-rounds before you find the right actors to connect with your emotional understanding.
That Sony Pictures Classics narrator, though? He’s a voice trapped in my 11th grade English class. Get him out of here. He’ll kill all potential joy.