Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
Critic Consensus: Led by a volcanic performance from Elizabeth Taylor, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a scathing adaptation of the Edward Albee play that serves as a brilliant calling card for debuting director Mike Nichols.
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Critic Reviews for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
[Taylor] is nothing less than brilliant as the shrewish, slovenly. blasphemous, frustrated, slightly wacky, alcoholic wife of a meek, unambitious assistant professor of history at a university, over which her father reigns as president.
Nichols has actually committed all the classic errors of the sophisticated stage director let loose on the unsophisticated movies. For starters, he has underestimated the power of the spoken word in his search for visual pyrotechnics.
The greatest credit for the implacable engagement that the film creates for its audience must go to the director, Mike Nichols. Nichols makes a stunning film bow with Virginia Woolf.
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Audience Reviews for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Edward Albee's words are magnificent for the silver screen, but it is the performances from Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton that truly bring the vitriol and bitterness to the surface. Many believe they modeled their performances on their real life relationship, and that this is the ultimate portrait of a crumpled marriage. Martha and George have a life built on the misconception that they can be happy based on political and social standards, but now, in their middle age, both feel the weight of their inactions and prejudices. They invite over a married couple (Sandy Dennis and George Segal) and spend the entire night fighting and degrading themselves and their guests. The play is about faith in love, and the decay of a relationship that needed to end years ago. Mike Nichols seems impervious to failure, and with this, his first venture, he has secured legions of fans who want to see the drama of interpersonal relationships displayed onscreen again and again.
This film is a must-see simply because it is a classic, it is expertly written, and Elizabeth Taylor is absolutely mesmerizing. However, while the beginning of the film is full of energy, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? unfortunately delves into a static melodrama. I am reluctant to criticize the film because of its iconic status, but it simply did not engage me in the way that I hoped it would. It's only particularly impressive in the amount of emotion displayed on the screen.
The vitriolic honesty of the impeccable source material when paired with a quartet of the finest performances in film history make for a work of legends..... Just doesn't make too much sense as to why the couple opposite Martha and George don't just.... Leave.
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