Vanya on 42nd Street (1995) - Rotten Tomatoes

Vanya on 42nd Street (1995)



Critic Consensus: Beautiful performances and the subtle hand of master Louis Malle make this adaptation of Chekov's Uncle Vanya an eccentric presentation of an enduring classic.

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Movie Info

In the late 1980s, noted theatrical director Andre Gregory assembled a group of friends and actors and began rehearsing a new translation of Anton Chekhov's +Uncle Vanya by David Mamet, not with any specific performance in mind but as a way of exploring the beauty and precise construction of Chekhov's play. Louis Malle, a friend of Gregory's, became interested in the project and spent two weeks filming Gregory's actors as they performed +Uncle Vanya without an audience in a run-down theater near New York's Times Square. In these performances, the line between theater and real life is blurred as conversations between actors -- juggling take-out cups of coffee and wearing street clothes -- slowly grow into a superb performance of Chekhov's classic, with Wallace Shawn as Vanya, Julianne Moore as Yelena, Brooke Smith as Sonya, and Larry Pine as Dr. Astrov. With a certain sad irony, this marvelously realized adaptation of a play about people wondering what they've done with their lives proved to be Louis Malle's final film; he died of cancer in 1995.more
Rating: PG
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Special Interest
Directed By:
Written By: Anton Chekhov, David Mamet, Andre Gregory
In Theaters:
On DVD: Sep 24, 2002
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


Larry Pine
as Dr. Astrov
George Gaynes
as Serybryakov
Jerry Mayer
as Waffles
Madhur Jaffrey
as Mrs. Chao
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for Vanya on 42nd Street

All Critics (36) | Top Critics (10)

It's amazing it has taken Wallace Shawn, Andre Gregory, and director Louis Malle more than 10 years to collaborate again. It was worth the wait, though.

Full Review… | July 6, 2010
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

The performances are precise, the language is alive and well spoken and the setting is striking, but Vanya on 42nd Street still suffers rather heavily from the limitations of filmed theater.

Full Review… | August 12, 2008
Top Critic

Malle adeptly eases us into the play so we can't tell at what precise moment Chekhov takes over, an ambiguity that becomes the film's triumph as well as its key limitation.

Full Review… | August 12, 2008
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

There's more power here than in all the multi-million dollar fireworks of Hollywood.

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

The elegant understatement of this production turns it into a livelier experiment, a fluent, gripping version of one of Chekhov's more elusive plays.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

This live-wire Vanya, freshly observed for the '90s, is fiercely funny, touching and vital.

May 12, 2001
Rolling Stone
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Vanya on 42nd Street

A group of actors perform Chekhov's Uncle Vanya.
Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn combined with director Louis Malle to create one of the great talk-only films, My Dinner with Andre, and now they add David Mamet translating Anton Chekhov to the mix, and the result is just as compelling. By itself, Vanya is a great character drama, and what Malle and company show is that great material requires great actors, not necessarily beautiful scenery. You probably wouldn't cast impish Wallace Shawn in the main role of Vanya opposite the younger and "beautiful" Jullianne Moore, but it works because Shawn's talent as an actor goes beyond his looks. The rest of the actors are equally good, including Moore, whose work usually fails to compel me.
Overall, this is a great introduction to one of Russia's greatest writers.

Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Should be seen in a theatre for the full appreciation. This is the most original telling of Uncle Vanya that I have seen. What we are seeing is a gripping theatre performance in an unmade set without costumes and with the pleasing sounds of New York in the background. It works!

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer


It strips Chekhov to its bare bones and its that simplicity of the production as well as the upfront acknowledgement of the artifice of this performance and the theatre in general that makes this work so well. I also like that Louis Malle just decided to film what the actors and Andre Gregory had put together over their extensive rehearsal and improvisation process without trying to transform it into something else, because whats there is pretty damn remarkable. Its some of the very best ensemble work I've ever seen.

Alec Barniskis
Alec Barniskis

Super Reviewer

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