Vanya on 42nd Street Reviews

  • Nov 21, 2019

    Vanya on 42nd Street is really just a performance of the play Uncle Vanya. It is made unique because it is presented by modern-day people in a theater rehearsing their performance of this play. Therefore, it looks current in wardrobe, but I suspect it remains pretty faithful to the classic script from the late 19th century. I was not familiar with this particular story from Chekhov before sitting down to watch the film, but that didn’t seem to be a detriment. I followed the story relatively well, mostly because of the wonderful acting of this cast. Most of them are not A-list stars of the big screen, but they clearly have some experience on the stage or with this play in particular because they all felt dialed into these performances. I guess the best compliment I can pay to all of them is that after a little while the pretense of the stage melted away for me, and I was there on the ground of that Russian estate with them. It was almost jarring when they took an act break and the camera pulled back to show us the director and spectators. It was a bit challenging at times to follow the story of Vanya on 42nd Street mostly because the dialogue is written almost like Shakespearean prose. This kind of writing, despite the fact that it’s mostly words I know, takes a great deal of concentration for me to decipher. When the film started, I was worried that I would be lulled into boredom and start to shut out what people were saying because it was too hard for me to see through to the meaning of their words. Yet, I somehow latched on when the emotions started to elevate and I could sense the feelings of each character. It all culminated in a glorious rant from Wallace Shawn that finally unveiled any remaining mystery about the story and allowed me to follow the tale to the end. Uncle Vanya is a heavy and somewhat depressing tale at the heart of it all, and I’ll admit that kind of story is tough for me to endure. While I was invested in Vanya on 42nd Street, the writing and the nature of the story kept me from loving it. However, it made me interested enough to someday seek out a stage production of this play.

    Vanya on 42nd Street is really just a performance of the play Uncle Vanya. It is made unique because it is presented by modern-day people in a theater rehearsing their performance of this play. Therefore, it looks current in wardrobe, but I suspect it remains pretty faithful to the classic script from the late 19th century. I was not familiar with this particular story from Chekhov before sitting down to watch the film, but that didn’t seem to be a detriment. I followed the story relatively well, mostly because of the wonderful acting of this cast. Most of them are not A-list stars of the big screen, but they clearly have some experience on the stage or with this play in particular because they all felt dialed into these performances. I guess the best compliment I can pay to all of them is that after a little while the pretense of the stage melted away for me, and I was there on the ground of that Russian estate with them. It was almost jarring when they took an act break and the camera pulled back to show us the director and spectators. It was a bit challenging at times to follow the story of Vanya on 42nd Street mostly because the dialogue is written almost like Shakespearean prose. This kind of writing, despite the fact that it’s mostly words I know, takes a great deal of concentration for me to decipher. When the film started, I was worried that I would be lulled into boredom and start to shut out what people were saying because it was too hard for me to see through to the meaning of their words. Yet, I somehow latched on when the emotions started to elevate and I could sense the feelings of each character. It all culminated in a glorious rant from Wallace Shawn that finally unveiled any remaining mystery about the story and allowed me to follow the tale to the end. Uncle Vanya is a heavy and somewhat depressing tale at the heart of it all, and I’ll admit that kind of story is tough for me to endure. While I was invested in Vanya on 42nd Street, the writing and the nature of the story kept me from loving it. However, it made me interested enough to someday seek out a stage production of this play.

  • Mar 18, 2017

    Movie as a play being acted in a rundown theater in old Times Square.

    Movie as a play being acted in a rundown theater in old Times Square.

  • Dec 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.

    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.

  • Jim H Super Reviewer
    Jul 03, 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.

    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.

  • Mar 20, 2015

    good version of this

    good version of this

  • Sep 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.

    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.

  • Mar 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.

    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.

  • Jan 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.

    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.

  • Nov 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.

    I tend not to like 16mm film; nor movies based on/about plays; nor dialogue-intensive ensemble casts. This had all three aspects.

  • Aug 11, 2013

    Remarkable meta-textual reading of Chekhov with an outstanding cast.

    Remarkable meta-textual reading of Chekhov with an outstanding cast.