Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Reviews
haven't seen 4 ever
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.
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.