- Movie Rating -

Tempest (1982)

| August 13, 1982

Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” wasn’t one of the bard’s plays that I studied in either high school or college.  My class curriculum stuck with the more familiar “Romeo and Juliet”, “Hamlet” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”  Therefore, I came into Paul Mazursky’s film Tempest without a template.  Clearly he intended that his film would do a modern take on the bard’s final work, but not being familiar with that work, I was kind of flailing.  Who are these people?  What are their connections?  Why are those things happening?  I hate it when I have to bring previous knowledge in with me.

The story is one of isolation.  John Cassavetes plays a reimagining of Prospero, who is now an architect suffering a midlife crisis and choosing to isolate himself on a Greek island with this 13-year-old daughter Miranda (Molly Ringwald) and his girlfriend Areatha (Susan Sarandon).  Of course, along the way he gets into a fight with a burly goatherd named Kalibanos (Raul Julia) who has become a self-pitying hermit.  They get into a fight apparently because the hermit kissed Philip’s daughter.  I never sensed a context nor a reason for this.  I got the sense that I needed to know Shakespeare’s work in order for this scene to work.

That’s the problem here, I think.  I am completely unfamiliar with “The Tempest” and the movie seems to want to be referential, as a modern day parallel to the play with characters rewritten and repositioned to our modern sensibilities.  Of course, a modernization of the bard’s work is not a crime – in fact it is invaluable.  His work should be interpreted and reinterpreted for every generation so that we can draw the meaning out of his work that keeps it fresh and relevant.  The problem here is that, again, you have to carry that knowledge into the film with you and by itself Tempest comes off as shallow, confusing and pointless.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1982) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy