Movie Night: Tape

I’ve been meaning to watch this for some time now. Ethan Hawke’s pet project: Tape, a Richard Linklater-helmed experiment in shooting with digital video. Not to mention that it reunited Hawke with his Dead Poets Society co-star (and, incidentally, my wife’s cousin) Robert Sean Leonard. Oh, and Uma Thurman to boot. What’s not to love?

Well, how about the movie itself? It does have a few things going for it, from a decent story to workable dialogue, to creditable performances all around. But that’s about it. If I didn’t know Linklater were directing, I’d swear it was slapped together by a couple of guys with their home movie camera and a copy of iMovie (okay, so maybe it’s a step above that level, but just one step). Ridiculously rampant cuts, awkward angle changes, and gratuitous use of “handheld” camera technique all scream not just independent, but rank amateur. All of which I could get past, even accept, if there were any reason for it. Why is this being shot on DV rather than film, other than the sheer novelty factor? Yeah, you can fit a DV camera into a much tighter space, theoretically opening your shooting options up, but it seems like Linklater was determined to try every funky angle at every opportunity without regard for the demands of the tale itself.

But even more than that, I was constantly thinking why is this a movie at all? The entire movie takes place (in real time) in a motel room, without a single shot beyond that one set. It’s a play, most emphatically not a movie. Okay, so it’s based on a play, but if you’re actually going to go to the trouble of making it into a movie, there has to be some rationale for doing so, something other than just the hell of it.

Normally, just the fact that Pam’s cousin’s in it would be enough for us to keep a copy of the movie on hand. Hell, we still have My Best Friend Is a Vampire in the closet somewhere. But not this time around; I just can’t imagine our wanting to watch it again. Though at least this effort fared better than Driven, which we managed to sit through about fifteen minutes of before turning it off in disgust.

Then again, even he couldn’t get through that one.


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