The Crucible Reviews
It's extraordinary the paranoia of witches & how quickly it traveled throughout the township. The key story focuses on Winona Ryder's character who desires Daniel Day Lewis & with her cunning creates a hysteria that young town woman follow.
Based on a 1950's play that was a terrific social comment of the Macarthy Era. A great warning of false religion & hysteria & how destructive it can truly be.
When he wrote "The Crucible," Miller was experiencing major betrayal. After watching helplessly as some of his closest industry friends were blacklisted from working and thus faced effectively shattered professional lives, one of his closest friends, revered director Elia Kazan ("East of Eden," "Wild River"), testified before HUAC and revealed a handful of names of those who had been members of the Communist party years earlier. Disgusted by Kazan's willingness to put the lives of his colleagues on the line just to save the prosperity of his career, Miller immediately went to Salem, MA to research the infamous witch trails of 1692, which he, ingeniously, felt fittingly paralleled the Communist fearing goings-on back in America.
The resulting "The Crucible" was perhaps too ahead of its time for audiences of 1953 to fully grasp Miller's dramatic brilliance (despite winning the Tony Award for Best Play that year, reviews were combative and audience reactions were divided), but in the years since its initial run has it proven both to be a seminal Broadway piece and also an untouchable Miller work. Miller himself would be briefly thrown into jail following his "misleading" HUAC in 1956 - he refused to rat out his friends a la Kazan - and would be affected by his battles with the committee for the rest of his life. Lasting, though, is "The Crucible's" condemnatory social commentary; its attack on the bandwagon jumping habits of our culture is uniformly elastic, always managing to reflect a new facet of senseless fear existing within American life.
The 1996 film adaptation, directed by Nicholas Hytner and written by Miller some forty years after its original conception, is a handsome production that mostly hits all the right notes, the acting by its ensemble profoundly stirring and the writing as visceral and fresh as it was during its 1950s heyday. Aside from an introduction that unwisely throws away the ambiguity able to make the material all the more impactful - the witchery so unfoundedly feared by the majority of the film's characters is, surprisingly, bluntly portrayed - it's a movie that's easy to lose yourself in. Its passions and its tragedies are too convincing for us to do anything besides turn into an active, reactionary viewer.
Iconically, "The Crucible" follows the dire predicament that befalls Salem local John Proctor (Daniel Day-Lewis), a farmer who finds his life leaping down into the throes of ruin after his wife, Elizabeth (Joan Allen), is accused of witchcraft by his former, vengeful lover, Abigail Williams (Winona Ryder).
What follows, of course, is unthinkable catastrophe. Since Abigail is beautiful, scheming, and a little bit demented, young locals don't dare question her claims - she'd as easily stab the back of a peer as she would the Proctors. And since the corrupt authority figures ruling over Massachusetts are the sort that are easily seduced by the control that comes along with their power, no one does anything to stop the frenzy that washes over Salem - in all are twenty executed. No one, though, will be easily able to predict the outcome that destroys the Proctors.
"The Crucible" remains the timeless courtroom drama that it is because it both serves as a melodramatic sign of the times and also an extended allegory for McCarthyism and, as the decades have shown, other instances of hysterical witch hunts, from the peak of the AIDS scare in the 1980s to the racism and xenophobia to have plagued the post-9/11 world. It also happens to be a damned good drama, consuming even when it's not additionally serving as a takedown of recurring cultural buffoonery.
Day-Lewis is predictable strong, a sensitive soul so desperate to save the woman he loves that he hardly realizes that his ardor will likely get him nowhere - even worse is the seeing of him affected by his realization that all the calamities might not have happened if his Proctor had avoided giving into temptation. Ryder is even better as a masochistic young woman reveling in her influence, and Paul Scofield, as the rigid judge, is terrifying in his inability to be compassionate. But it's Allen, bare-faced and always appearing to be on the verge of tears, that renders the heart the most cogently.
Its error in opening judgment perhaps prevents much of "The Crucible's" persuasiveness - ambiguity was key in the strengthening of its tragedy, and the film's lacking of that supplemental component causes one to wonder how much sturdier of an adaptation it would be if Miller retained necessary room for speculation. But its performances are too stunning to see "The Crucible" as anything other than a masterwork in casting and in expressiveness. Its timeliness comes and goes. But its effectuality doesn't.
My biggest gripe with the movie however is not the script, but the casting of 90s "it girl" Winona Ryder. She is as irritatingly unbearable here as in all her other films. She ruined Dracula, she ruined Little Women, and there's nothing different about this movie. I can't even fathom why anyone in their right mind would consider her employable, thank God she fell off the map, saving any future films she may have been miscast in. Regarding this particular performance, first of all she puts on a horrible fake British accent, and overacts so melodramatically that she seems like that desperate student trying to impress their high school drama teacher. The idea of her opposite Daniel Day-Lewis is laughable, as she cannot hold her own in a scene with him and makes it seem ridiculously implausible that he would even take an interest in her. Her acting is so forced, stiff, melodramatic and over-the-top yet lacking any real emotion and human depth.
I understand the character is supposed to be obnoxious and hysterical, however the character of Abigail is also supposed to be alluring and mesmerizing, enough to captivate the town, yet Ryder of course is not. The whole time it has you wondering what anyone sees in her. She's so painfully miscast, she's plain and mousy looking even by Puritan standards, she's not charismatic and is downright nails-on-chalkboard annoying. It seems as though the rest of the cast is forcing themselves to believe her in her role. She simply does not deliver as Abigail, the entire time you're wondering why anyone would give this girl a second glance let alone pay her enough mind to take her word on persecuting the townspeople seriously. I would have LOVED to see Kate Winslet or even Nicole Kidman in this role, Both are good actresses (Winslet a great one) with charisma, and both are actually beautiful which would have made Daniel Day-Lewis' interest and affair plausible and believable. Ryder not surprisingly falls flat on her face, and for a woman acting so melodramatically over the top that it would make a Greek tragedy seem monotone, she somehow still manages to fall flat as usual.
It is a shame considering this could have been a much better film with the already weighty performances of Daniel Day-Lewis and Joan Allen. Joan Allen shines as Elizabeth Proctor, now that is an actress. So much emotion and so much feeling yet so little expressed verbally, she and Day-Lewis make an incredible pair as husband and wife in a dysfunctional marriage, and their reconciliation at the end is heart-wrenching. One star for Day-Lewis' performance, one star for Allen's performance, and one star for the story by Arthur Miller. Negative two stars for Winona Ryder, she drags down every movie she's in to the point of being merely bearable and I find myself enjoying the movie despite her, not because of her.
Saw this on 17/3/16
A hard hitting movie about a senseless time where only the bible made sense and every single human being was a fucking superstitious cunt. The crucible is well acted and it has got some good pacing. It could have been good with some better direction, but what it has is never bad. This is a true story about the witch hunts.
Daniel Day Lewis' John Proctor is much better than Ted Cruz's (WHY AM I PERSECUTED!?!?) and that is all that I'll say on that. Whilst I just don't seem to be much of Winona Ryder fan, I do think she works very well as Abigail here and Joan Allen's Elizabeth Proctor would easily steal the show were it not so jam-packed with talent everywhere else too.
If you aren't familiar with the play's story then you can expect a real rollercoaster here, and maybe some tears too, and if you are already familiar then you can expect a faithful re-telling of the events.
The film looks the part and should surely satisfy fans of the source material and the cast involved. If play adaptations aren't your thing though then you may want to give this one as a miss as it's certainly one of them, and doesn't try to hide it.