Six Degrees of Separation Reviews
Six Degrees of Separation consistently makes itself obvious as being adapted from a stage play. Within the limited quantity of settings that the film occurs in, the focus is so heavily on characters and script that it does not hide itself beneath style. Yet it cleverly finds a way to capitalise on the text format by editing the narrative to be non-linear. Although it may take time to adjust to, after a while the structure of the story becomes intriguing. The characters piece together the story in their own accounts and we are provided an insight of how they are all linked, and this is captured by cutting between the contemporary narrative and flashback scenes from all kinds of different perspectives. There is little else to elevate the film beyond its theatrical style as a film adaptation, but all in all the structured editing of Six Degrees of Separation proves enough because it speeds up the pace of the film and ensures that it doesn't beat around the bush, This is surprising considering that the film is based on a play. But what is not surprising is that Fred Schepisi puts in such a fine dedication to detail and focus to the screenplay by John Guare, allowing it to profrewssively develop the drama and the characters naturally.
Despite the dramatic nature of the subject matter, Six Degrees of Separation is not a film which drones on. In actual fact, it maintains a very light mood about it thanks to a touch of comedic charm within the script. This, combined with the pace of the film ensures that the feature is interesting and appropriately captivating without hitting viewers over the head with its themes but rather letting them embrace it through a gentle realization of what the film is trying to say. The atmosphere is what draws the viewers in and the strong dialogue in the screenplay is what reall keeps things going because there are many brilliant topics of discussion within Six Degrees of Separation, and it works to keep viewers intriguied in a story which does not always keep moving. The characters draw viewers in and set up cast members wiht a lot of potential to work with, and as a result the performances are ultimately the most captivating points of Six Degrees of Separation.
Will Smith steals the screen. With Will Smith maintaining such a legacy for his ghetto character archetype originally created on the sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air where he is iconic for his banter with the contrasting character Alfonso Ribeiro's character Carlton Banks who is the iconic suit of the show, seeing him take on not just that exact kind of character but one who is very heavily dramatic is such a change of pace that it is unforgettable. But as well as that, Will Smith is no longer the hero of the story but the villain of it. Will Smith has never played a character as against type as Paul, and seeing him take on such a character-oriented cramatic role which demands heavy focus on character without visual effects and stunts to surround him is refreshing. But as well as that, the level of sophistication that Will Smith captures is just brilliant. Six Degrees of Separation features the first truly great dramatic performance from Will Smith, and he steals the screen the so consistently with his instinctive ability to conjur up a sophisticated charm and sense of wit. Will Smith's dramatic brilliance in Six Degrees of Separation is absolutely essential viewing, and considering how far he has come in the decades since it is brilliant to go back to his earliest cinematic skills.
Stockard Channing doesn't necessarily have sufficient screen time to create a performance worthy of an Academy Award nomination, nor does she have a character that really stands out all that much from the crowd for most of the film. Nevertheless, she delivers a powerful effort. Her most notable scenes come from towards the end of the film where she shares an intense chemistry with Will Smith and her character goes through a sense of development in understanding who Paul is as a person. Her development is impressive and the way that she grips the emotional state of her character is brilliant, particularly when she speaks of her experiences with Paul. Stockard Channing delivers what could be a career-best performance in Six Degrees of Separation due to the way that she puts such dedication into every detail of her character, from capturing the sophisticated nature of the woman to sense of passion she develops towards Paul as he touches her life. You can see her strip away the high class skin of her character from the start piece by piece as the story progresses, and as a result she delivers a powerful monologue when the film draws to a close which is the endeavour of her performance.
Donald Sutherland is a capable foil as usual. Making an effective on-screen pair with Stockard Channing. Donald Sutherland easily captures Flan Kittredge's sophisticated nature in both its high class value and inability to see beyond the surface of things. He delivers his lines as they come to him with natural instrinct, and as a result there is no feeling of artificiality in the role. It is almost routine for him, but not in any repetitive sense because it is yet another example of his natural charm being used in a film whcih demands he really build a character. He does it just fine,
Anthony Michael Hall's small supporting role is also powerful due to the intelligent articulation of words that he captures and his chemistry with Will Smith. Heather Graham also has some powerful moments.
So though Six Degrees of Separation has a stroy with limited progression, the intelligent nature of the dialogue and powerful performances from Stockard Channing and especially Will Smith make it an effective theatrical adaptation of its play.
That the film is based on a theatrical play is evident throughout. It's very talky, and completely dialogue-driven. If done correctly, this can be work, but if done poorly, it can be a disaster. Six Degrees of Separation manages to give the script a cinematic flavor, changing up the scenes, keeping the story kinetic, but still has a stylistic and affected dialogue which is simply not befitting of a film drama. The acting seems fine, but the lines the characters have to deliver never quite feel true. To be sure, capturing the finer points of modern intellectual discourse is tricky, especially in a comedic format (perhaps they should have consulted with Woody Allen), but doing so properly is essential. Thus, the film never fully makes the transition from theater to film, many of the situations simply feel more at home in an art house, not a movie.
The story itself is undeniably intriguing, however. What I appreciated most was how the film incorporated all of the characters, and weaved a story that connected all of them, yet not in an obvious or melodramatic way. Instead, the film weaved the narrative such that we are painted a portrait of New York socialite life, while also taking the time to give some social commentary (albeit a little on-the-nose).
The humor is inconsistent, but also undeniable at times. The exact tone of the film can be a bit unnerving, in that we're never quite sure if it's being tongue-in-cheek, or unabashedly preachy. This can certainly be considered a failing, as the film seems lost in itself often times, a bit too bogged down on its own cleverness.
With its theatrical roots, it certainly isn't for everyone, but interesting enough to give it merit.
also stars Ian McKellan, Mary Beth Hurt, Bruce Davison, Richard Masur, Anthony Michael Hall and Heather Graham.
directed by Fred Schepisi.