A Little Night Music - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

A Little Night Music Reviews

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Super Reviewer
August 6, 2014
It has minor charms (Diana Rigg and Len Cariou come to mind), but mostly the film serves as a reminder as to how difficult a task it is to bring most Sondheim musicals to the big screen, if it should even be done at all. The cuts to the score are vexing and Hal Prince seems to have phoned in his direction . . . all in all, it's a disappointing mess.
½ April 14, 2014
A Little Night Music proves to be an okay movie, even though it has Ms. Taylor and some other great stars. It could've been better, but a lack of narrative cohesiveness hurts it.
Super Reviewer
½ August 22, 2011
With this much talent on the table this should have been so much better. Liz was a great star but not a singer just the wrong actress for the role she should never have been cast, she does not seem comfortable and is not looking her best. Diana Rigg, Hermoine Gingold and Len Cariou do what they can with their parts and the settings are lovely but the direction is flat, in this sort of whimsy that is deadly. It has moments of pleasure but overall a miss.
½ March 29, 2011
This movie needs to be re-made...the RIGHT WAY! Elizabeth Taylor is wrong choice for Desiree. In fact the only decent performance in this film is Diana Rigg as Charlotte. I think the film would have been a little better if Diana Rigg played Desiree and someone else played Charlotte
March 19, 2011
The worst musical stage-to-screen adaptation I've encountered. How can you take one of the greatest works of musical theatre and turn it into garbage? Well, you cast Elizabeth Taylor who can't sing or stay a consistent weight, you change the setting and the characters' names, and you make Sondheim rewrite the songs and, in one case, add lyrics to something that was just supposed to be an instrumental waltz. It's a train wreck, but not a fun one.
February 18, 2011
An Evening in the Country Seems to Be All It Takes

By and large, I prefer taking singers and getting them to act over taking actors and dubbing them with people who can sing. There are exceptions, and Gods know there are actors who turn out to be able to sing quite well. See, for example, Rick Moranis in [i]Little Shop of Horrors[/i]. I suppose the thought was that, if you get a big name like Elizabeth Taylor, people will actually go see a movie like this. I can't find statistics, but I rather suspect it didn't work. The fact that it's obvious she was dieting over the course of filming didn't help, either. However, Hollywood has the curious tendency of avoiding casting the person who originated a role on Broadway in the movie. Ask Julie Andrews, Angela Lansbury, and Carol Channing. Or possibly Audrey Hepburn, Lucille Ball, and Barbra Streisand.

Fourteen years ago, Desiree Armfeldt (Taylor) had an affair with Frederick Egerman (Len Cariou). It's never explicitly stated, but they had a daughter, Fredericka (Chloe Franks). Fredericka used to tour with her mother, but one day, Madame Armfeldt (Hermione Gingold), Desiree's mother, took Fredericka to live with her, and now, Desiree tours alone. Eventually, her tour takes her to the city nearest her mother's estate--which is also where Frederick lives. He has now married Anne (Lesley-Anne Downs), a sweet and virginal--literally--young woman. They live with his son from his first marriage, Erich (Christopher Guard). Frederick takes Anne to see Desiree's play, but Anne works out that there was something between them. However, there is currently something between Desiree and Carl-Magnus Mittelheim (Laurence Guittard). To the fury of his wife, Charlotte (Diana Rigg). And all of this boils over when Desiree invites the Egermans to stay with her and her family for the weekend--and the Mittelheims crash the party.

And the best part is that all this is based on a Bergman film. Which I haven't actually seen. Curious, really; given that I actually saw this show live once, you'd think I would have sought it out long since. It's obvious why I haven't gotten to it in the last couple of years. The film is called [i]Smiles of a Summer Night[/i], which starts with "S." I won't get to it for some time. But it does reinforce my stance that Stephen Sondheim will make musicals out of any source which interests him even a little. No one else would make this. No one else should have. But Sondheim manages to weave believable characters into a farcical tale. With few exceptions--with one exception--they're causing their own problems, but they're problems you believe people cause for themselves. If you're like me, you've probably either done it yourself or watched other people doing it.

On the other hand, it's a pretty lousy adaptation of the musical. Remember that I have seen it live, and I'd listened to a lot of the music long before that. They changed things around to make it more appealing to mass audiences, which I really wish people would stop doing. It hardly ever works. And in this case, the problem is only partly that they cut one of my favourite songs. ("The Miller's Son," sung by Petra--here Lesley Dunlop.) I'll admit that the song doesn't necessarily add much to the storyline, but I think it summarizes how most of the characters ended up in the situation they're in when the show starts. There is also, however, the inexplicable shift in location from Sweden, where movie and stage show are of course set (Bergman!), to Austria. Practically all this does is require changing various character names, I think, and even if it changed more than that, I don't think there's really a reason for the change. Besides, a summer's night in Sweden is notably different from one much farther south.

It's difficult to get Sondheim made, I think. He isn't really writing anymore; well, he's eighty and entitled to relax a little. But I think his most famous stuff is work he wrote in collaboration. Everyone knows [i]West Side Story[/i], and I think probably most people know [i]Gypsy[/i]. They may well know "Send in the Clowns," but I don't think they know this show in particular. And unfortunately, I don't really think I can advise people to watch the movie if they aren't already familiar with Sondheim's work in general. Certainly it isn't where I'd suggest people start on an exploration of his work. Indeed, I'm afraid I'd have to start by advising looking at the collaborations, if you're limiting yourself to theatrical-release Sondheim. Though I wouldn't suggest that. I think, if you're going to start exploring the work of a great American composer and lyricist, the best place to start is the [i]Great Performances[/i] production of [i]Into the Woods[/i]. Only eventually should you come back here, and mostly to lament what could have been.
October 11, 2010
What a regrettable film. I'm always nervous viewing Sondheim adaptations, but this is the worst of the lot - a crime all the more, as it is one of the few Sondheim works where the script matches his score! It's no-one's fault, particularly. Only a few songs are excised, and while I accept them - "Liaisons" and "The Miller's Son" probably don't work as character excursions for five minutes each on screen - the film loses much of its humour in the transition. Elizabeth Taylor is okay in the role of Desiree, but nothing to write home about. Diana Rigg is having more fun playing Charlotte, but personally I feel like she just showed up, said her lines in the patented Diana Rigg manner, and got paid. Hermione Gingold, meanwhile, is wheeled on for all of two minutes. A lost opportunity.
April 21, 2010
This stodgy, joyless film is the sort of thing that my family imagines when I talk about plays: stilted dialogue, uninteresting characterizations, and a story that is more of a chore than any sort of entertainment. This is likely Sondheim's weakest score, with only "Weekend in the Country" and "Send in the Clowns" rescuing the score from total forgetfulness.
January 10, 2010
By all accounts, the movie version should have been a smash hit. It is instead a colossal mess.
February 8, 2009
A wonderful musical that was poorly put into a movie, but I must give Len Cariou credit just because he is my favortie.
February 3, 2009
One of my favorite Stephen Sondheim scores, set to a convoluted but fairly funny sex comedy plot. Although Elizabeth Taylor is not a very good singer, she embodies the character perfectly. The rest of the cast is fantastic, bringing out the surprising musicality of Sondheim's melodies and the brilliance of his lyrics. The script is less brilliant, but holds up well. Definitely an enjoyable watch, and probably one I would see again some day.
January 29, 2009
A seemingly joyless adaptation of what should be a wonderful comedy. Hardly anyone survives unscathed, except for maybe Diana Rigg as the hilarious Countess. From the opening words coming out of Elizabeth Taylor's poorly dubbed mouth to the awkward editing to the unsatisfying ending, it's an unholy mess. Maybe it could be remade now, but the nature of it (with the liebeslieders, who are cut from this version) might make it impossible to film. Hmm.
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