Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Reviews

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Super Reviewer
July 7, 2007

haven't seen 4 ever
Super Reviewer
July 13, 2010
Edward Albee's words are magnificent for the silver screen, but it is the performances from Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton that truly bring the vitriol and bitterness to the surface. Many believe they modeled their performances on their real life relationship, and that this is the ultimate portrait of a crumpled marriage. Martha and George have a life built on the misconception that they can be happy based on political and social standards, but now, in their middle age, both feel the weight of their inactions and prejudices. They invite over a married couple (Sandy Dennis and George Segal) and spend the entire night fighting and degrading themselves and their guests. The play is about faith in love, and the decay of a relationship that needed to end years ago. Mike Nichols seems impervious to failure, and with this, his first venture, he has secured legions of fans who want to see the drama of interpersonal relationships displayed onscreen again and again.
Super Reviewer
January 3, 2014
This film is a must-see simply because it is a classic, it is expertly written, and Elizabeth Taylor is absolutely mesmerizing. However, while the beginning of the film is full of energy, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? unfortunately delves into a static melodrama. I am reluctant to criticize the film because of its iconic status, but it simply did not engage me in the way that I hoped it would. It's only particularly impressive in the amount of emotion displayed on the screen.
Super Reviewer
½ July 8, 2013
The vitriolic honesty of the impeccable source material when paired with a quartet of the finest performances in film history make for a work of legends..... Just doesn't make too much sense as to why the couple opposite Martha and George don't just.... Leave.
paul o.
Super Reviewer
½ February 27, 2013
Extremely heartbreaking and hard to watch. Its a film of human emotions flying out with alcohol. The whole cast (4 people) were all nominated for an Oscar and they deserve it. Standing the test of time, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a beautifully shot film of melancholy.
Super Reviewer
January 30, 2012
Mike Nichols made his directorial debut with this adaptation of Edward Albee's play about a delusional, dysfunctional middle-aged couple who invite a young couple over for drinks and casual conversation, only to draw them into their path of destruction.

I must say, this is one of the most unpleasant, awkward, and uncomfortable movies I've endured. It's emotionally exhausting, brutal, cynical,and a real downer. Here's the thing, though: there are people like this who really exist in real life. It's painful, but honest.

The film garnered much controversy (as did the play) for the language and sexual content. It's rather tame by today's standards, but the viciousness of the verbal abuse and vitriol still stings. The insults and badgering in this movie are quite venomous at times, and I was somewhat unnerved by it all. Polanski's movie Carnage is comparable, but that one at least started off mildly pleasant before descending into savagery, whereas this one is uncivil from the start.

This really isn't a film I want to endure very often, if ever again. There is a point to it all, and while it is good to experience stuff like this from time to time, you'd have to be a little off to think this warrants frequent rewatches.

Besides the unpleasantness, the film is overlong and somewhat repetitive, but what makes it all worth it are Haskell Wexler's excellent cinematography, and, most of all, the excellent performances from a cast where all four main players got Oscar nods, with two of them winning. That's easily the biggest redeeming factor here. This is a real master classic in acting, especially from Taylor and Burton.

It's overrated, grueling, and really joyless, but if you want to see excellent acting, and how dark relationships can get sometimes, then give this a watch.
Super Reviewer
½ August 2, 2012
Jaw dropping, controversial Mike Nichols' masterpiece is a portrait of the decadent and indecent American good custom, that remember Luis Bunuel classic El Angel Exterminador.
Super Reviewer
June 23, 2011
The Texas Chainsaw Masssacre with the incredible Liz Taylor and Richard Burton in the roles of the Leatherface family, destroying and entraping a young-faced wholesome American couple. One of the all-time greats
Super Reviewer
March 18, 2011
Sadly, there are very few films that are capable of eliciting a visceral reaction out of me. However, Mike Nichol's 1966 debut film, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, is such a powerful film on so many levels that I cannot imagine anybody watching it without being significantly moved. The film is based on Edward Albee's Tony Award winning play and covers the events of one very long and alcohol induced night. It follows the plight of an aging couple George (Richard Burton) and Martha (Elizabeth Taylor). When friends Nick (George Segal) and Honey (Sandy Dennis) come over for a nightcap, they become caught in the middle of a series of games in which George and Martha take their pain and attempt to push each other to the breaking point. Albee's dialogue is explosive, both in terms of being emotionally charged and how it is projected, and is adeptly handled by the entire cast.. There is a brilliant mix of temperamental humor and anguish which includes one of my favorite lines, "There isn't an abomination award going that you haven't won."
While Albee's superb script provides a well-built chassis for the film, it is Nichol's direction mixed with Haskell Wexler's brilliant cinematography that makes this film really take off. Often times the camera will capture the scene as if it were merely a fly on the wall. However, Nichols really knows the material and will zoom in to the point of intrusion when a character feels emotionally isolated or verbally backed into a corner. In one particularly distinguished scene that deviates from the play, Nichols captures George walking into the back of the house when the Martha and the guests are still conversing in the living room. Even though George is out of ear shot of the others, Nichols keeps the audio of their conversation going while he follows George. This illuminates the extent of Martha's deviance as George can still knows that Martha will be speaking ill of him even when he is not in her company. Also, in the same vein as a noir, Nichols uses mirrors to show how these characters never take a good hard look at themselves and what they have become. One is even shoved in the face of George at one point, yet he is too steeped in his own misery to even see the man on the other side.
The performances here are simply astounding by all players involved. Although Taylor would nab the Oscar for best actress, I really feel as though Burton was snubbed. While his character could have just been watered down to nothing more than a dispensary of caustic wit, Burton injects a sense of humanity into the character that is present in the smallest of gestures.
Historically, this film is bold as it was produced in some of the most impassioned years of the civil rights movement. These years saw a mass movement to finally put an end to the anti-miscegenation laws that had previously prevented interracial marriages in America. This film shows that even white upper-middleclass marriages, which were seen as a bulwark against the decay of the human race, had their blemishes.
In the end, it is a beautiful film about a volatile relationship. It is about pain and the fiction that we manufacture in order to deal with it. The film isn't easy to watch, but if you do you will find that this is an absolutely astounding film.
Super Reviewer
March 23, 2011
Mike Nichols's (Closer) film debut, adapted from Edward Albee's play, is an intriguing mazelike mess of marital troubles. In this tense movie, George (Richard Burton) and Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) compose the ultimate screwed-up relationship. Incisive, extraordinary script by Ernest Lehman (West Side Story, North by Northwest) allows for some stunning performances to erupt. Taylor is at her scenery-chewing best, Burton is even better in a restrained, ice-cold turn. George Segal is certainly impressive as morally ambiguous Nick and Sandy Dennis is devastatingly perfect as naďve Honey. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is like a dinner party thrown by a dysfunctional family: intermittently entertaining but ultimately uncomfortable and a little too long. Though unpleasant it may be, you cannot look away.
Super Reviewer
November 9, 2010
This whole movie is an awkward, drunken fight between two married people and their newly married guest hostages. I guess the acting was pretty good, I really did believe these people are awful.. but I still didn't like the movie and it was pretty long.
Super Reviewer
May 8, 2010
It's an acting masterclass - that's for sure - but I've just never liked the play. I'm not a fan of Albee's. He's so damn good at loading a scene with cutting vitriol, but it's clear that the characters are on stage/screen because the playwright is pulling the strings. The characters don't have any exigence. There's no character-based reason why Nick and Honey stay; they're only there to move George and Martha's story through the dramatic arc.
Super Reviewer
½ October 20, 2009
A gripping, dialogue-driven smash a movie featuring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton at the top of their games as a husband and wife who involve a young, innocent-seeming couple in a torrid, bitter conversation. Although initially slow-moving, it picks up a head of steam once the young couple (George Segal and Sandy Dennis, who also give outstanding turns) enters into a household full of turmoil and anger - one which they are eventually affected by drastically. The dialogue is simply incredible, with Burton and Taylor possessing an on-screen chemistry like few other, capped off by a devastating twist at the film's end which sears into your memory forever. Although it does miss perfection (the slow-moving beginning and the restaurant scene felt forced) by ever so little, this is without a doubt one of the most arresting dialogue-fueled movies I've seen in quite some time (the last movie to come to mind would be Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds").
Super Reviewer
½ November 8, 2008
While I agree the acting is pretty good in this one, I actually did have a problem with bits of this not ringing true. I could buy the married couple with issues, it was when the younger couple were introduced into it that this film suffers.... ..........SPOILERS........... To me, realistically, that evening would have been over after the younger woman threw up. Surely at that time of morning, you've been sick, it's late, you do not hang around and then start up drinking again, let alone stop off at a late night bar to go dancing (and don't even get me started on that bar, not a customer or staff member in sight for quite some time. Very realistic. Not). Let alone after she finds out her husband told the older guy about her phantom pregnancy - there would have been no coming back from that one! I discussed this one with someone who has not seen it, and an interesting theory, (given how screwed up this couple was with bitterness and disappointments in life), perhaps the younger couple was all in their mind and "made up" just like the son, as there was parallels such as childlessness. If that was the intention, I like this movie a little more than I did, however, I think it was more likely meant to be taken literally.
Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
March 1, 2010
Real life (at the time) couple Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor star in this cynical send-up of not just marriage, but the human race in general. Burton plays George, an aging history professor who's married to the daughter of the university president, Martha. George, at first glance, appears to be a henpecked and harried husband, whereas Martha is loud and "braying" as he describes her. They both seem to be (somewhat) functioning alcholics, and they both seem to loathe one another on some deeply fundamental level. It's not only that they loathe one another, they can't even be bothered to pretend at the pleasantries of marriage anymore. The film begins as George and Martha arrive home (at approximately 2am) drunk from a party and begin to bicker. Martha then tells George she's invited the new professor and his wife over for drinks and they should be there at any moment. When the young couple arrives, it's clear to George exactly what the new professor's motivations are, especially when he begins to butter up Martha. From then on, it's an escalating war of words and painful diatribes as everyone's weaknesses are brought to the fore. It's not the twist at the end that's so shocking when compared to the other twist that it's really George and Martha who truly love one another, and the young couple whose marriage seems more out of convenience than genuine affection. The viciously well-written play by Edward Albee is excellently adapted to the big screen by Mike Nichols ("The Graduate"). Taylor and Burton seem to delight in ripping into each other, and even when the second half begins to meander along (including the unsatisfying and bizarre ending), it doesn't really dull the blistering impact of the first. Modern sensibilities might be more shocked by the venom than the taboo subject matter, which I'm sure was ground-breaking at the time.
Super Reviewer
January 17, 2010
Essentially a story about two people who hate each others guts, yet can't live without one another. It has knockout performances from Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who play against their usual roles. It also works as an extremely dark comedy because nearly every argument is started by the most ridiculous things.
Super Reviewer
January 16, 2010
Amazing film. Had the feeling and awkwardness of a Cassavettes film with outstanding performances by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Emotionally draining at times, but proves once again that Mike Nichols is one of the best actors' directors of all time. I was also really impressed with George Segal and Sandy Dennis who play off of Burton and Taylor really well. There is also the camera work of Haskell Wexler who is legendary and makes you feel like you in the room watching this train wreck of a marriage collide with their younger counter parts. Beautiful ending.
Super Reviewer
May 24, 2009
Reminds me of my parents. Probably not a good thing.
Super Reviewer
November 25, 2009
Okay, if I was part of the younger couple in this movie, I would have gotten out of the house a long time ago! This film does an unbelievable job of creating awkward tension and an unnerving feeling, which eventually boils down to downright hostility towards the end. As awkward as this film makes you feel, itâ??s also helps adds a lot to the overall tone of the film. Itâ??s hard to say I â??enjoyedâ?? watching this film, but I did love to watch the great characters and actors who played them. As well, it kept me wanting to know, until the last second how it was all going to end.
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