Vanya on 42nd Street - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Vanya on 42nd Street Reviews

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December 29, 2015
With such talent thrown in the mix as Louis Malle, David Mamet, Wallace Shawn, Andre Gregory, and Julianne Moore, it's easy to see why this movie is great. Featuring excellent performances and Malle's ability to place the camera in the best place at all times, Vanya on 42nd Street is worth a viewing.
Super Reviewer
July 3, 2015
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.
April 7, 2015
The famous Chekhov play gets adapted by David Mamet, complete with his trademark rhythmic dialogue. The team behind My Dinner With Andre gather together an incredible cast. Not least of all, the radiant Julianne Moore. In fact, the female parts are the most memorably touching roles here. The history of this experiment dates back to '89 and was designed strictly for small group of live audiences. Malle saw it and insisted that they make it into a film. It would turn out to be his last. The film is an unusual balance of being theatrical and cinematic (perhaps a per-cursor to Dogville). This extremely self-referential, playful and intimate chamber film is custom-made for lovers of performance and theater.
March 20, 2015
good version of this
September 28, 2014
Who knew Chekov could be so relevant? Can you sit and listen? Oh, and let Louis Malle seduce you with Julianne Moore's incredible good looks.
September 15, 2014
This is quite a unique way of adapting Anton Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya", with fine performances from start to finish (particularly Julianne Moore) and a perfect way for Louis Malle to leave us.
March 10, 2014
Marketing made them display Julianne Moore on the cover but it shines the most by Brooke Smith. It doesnt reach the heights of ''My dinner with Andre'', the previous collaboration between Louis Malle, Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn but its definitely an original way to do Tchekhov, highlighting what is intemporal in it by setting it against the decay of a modern day gutted theater.
½ January 31, 2014
A marvelous, cinematic interpretation of a theatrical staging of Russian playwright Anton Chekov's play, "Uncle Vanya." Andre Gregory organized a group of actors to rehearse the play in an abandoned New York theater, while appearing in their street clothes, in front of invited guests over the course of three years, as part of a workshop. Director Louis Malle documented the performance with ingenuity by introducing us to the actors as they arrive at the theater then proceeding with the play without forewarning. As the lights dim, Malle places the camera on stage with the actors to dissolve the proscenium and create an intimacy not found at a live performance. We are transported, in our imagination, to a late nineteenth century Russian estate with no artificial sets. Chekov's themes of longing, regret, wastefulness, and unhappiness emerge perfectly. More than just a gimmick, this is a fantastic production with first-rate acting all around. David Mamet provided the English translation. This was Malle's final film. With Wallace Shawn as Vanya; Julianne Moore as Yelena; Larry Pine as Astrov; Brooke Smith as Sonya; George Gaynes as Serybryakov; Phoebe Brand as Marina; Jerry Mayer as Telegin; and Lynn Cohen as Vonenskaya.
½ November 28, 2013
I tend not to like 16mm film; nor movies based on/about plays; nor dialogue-intensive ensemble casts. This had all three aspects.
August 11, 2013
Remarkable meta-textual reading of Chekhov with an outstanding cast.
June 10, 2013
The performances are precise, the language is alive and well spoken and the setting is striking, but "Vanya on 42nd Street" still suffers from the limitations of filmed theater. It's a prestige item for the fest and arthouse circuit.
Super Reviewer
December 17, 2012
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!
½ November 10, 2012
Remarkable film of a remarkable play. The pain of the story is neutralized by the delight of watching this top-flight cast playing off each other.
July 14, 2012
Outstanding production of Vanya. Mamet's translation is spot on and the performances are amazing. Shawn is outstanding in the title role. I have a rekindled love of Chekhov tonight.
June 1, 2012
One of the most sublime film experiences of my life. Perfection. A great bookend to "My Dinner with Andre."
May 10, 2012
Excellent 'casual' film adaptation of Checkhov's play... The cast is outstanding. And the concept of the film as a rehearsal for the play (in a dilapidated 42nd Street theatre) is as painfully cool, sophisticated and unpretentious as its soundtrack by Joshua Redman.
March 24, 2012
Wake up to your mermaid life.
Super Reviewer
½ March 1, 2012
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.
February 27, 2012
I could and would understand the appeal of making a film with it's interesting and bizarre setting. But with the knowledge of knowing that the play we are watching isn't real, the disillusion of reality is completely destroyed by knowing that the characters are only actors acting.
½ April 30, 2011
Vanya On 42nd Street tells Anton Checkov's Uncle Vanya in a very clear, precise, and simple way. The idea was to have everything be as simple and as clear-cut as possible. And in that way, it works. And this film has held up very well. I saw it over a year ago, but it's affecting me more now than it did then. This is fascinating.

Vanya On 42nd Street stars Wallace Shawn as the titular character. This is one of the very few serious (or even semi-serious) roles I've ever seen him in. And, I must say, he does a fantastic job. I cannot complain about his performance at all. I really wish this guy was doing more drama, actually. To be fair, I can see him being irritating to some people, but he is genuinely a very good actor. The audience can really get a sense of the inner struggles Vanya is going through in each scene and they can tell exactly the kinds of relationships that he has with each member of his family.

All in all, this is just an eloquently done film. That being said, I did have some problems with it. The biggest issue is that a lot of people are not going to be in love with this film solely because it is Checkov. The language isn't easy and the director doesn't make the story "alive" enough to hold the attention of some of the people I saw this with. People are either going to be really turned on and engaged with this story, or they're going to hate it. The reason for that distinction lies mostly with the nature of Checkov itself. There are a lot of relationships always going on and molding and the characters can be hard to keep track of if the audience isn't careful. And besides that, the plot itself unfolds in a very different way than a modern audience will be use to. Checkov believed that real life happened in small conversations and small decisions, so there's never any huge revelation or anything like that. The play's actions fold out in very much the same ways they would in life, and people are either going to love it or hate it. I really enjoyed that, especially now that I've had some time apart from the story.

Checkov works best for the older generations. They're the ones who seem to find the most connections to this work. And it sucks that this film has such a limited audience, but it is the way it is. So I would definitely not recommend this picture to my younger readers. But the older audiences--even twenties and up--ought to find this story quite meaningful.

Overall, it's a well-directed and well-acted picture. Wallace Shawn and Julianne Moore are great together and the director really handles the space well. Sometimes I forgot that this whole story is actually a play within a play. I forget that these are actors going through a routine rehearsal of the production. I just get caught up and lost in the story that takes place. It is a worthy film adaption of the play if the audience can really take it in. But it's not the easiest.
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