Saturday 7 August 2021

Movie Review: Tempest (1982)

A midlife crisis drama, Tempest explores a painful transition from the vigour of youth to the wisdom of experience. The film enjoys a stellar cast and some excellent highlights, but is also both overlong and emotionally truncated.

New York architect Phillip Dimitrius (John Cassavetes) is experiencing a severe middle age crisis. His work designing casinos for his boss Alonzo (Vittorio Gassman), a semi-respectable mobster, is now a boring chore, and Phillip has lost interest in his wife Antonia (Gena Rowlands), a retired actress attempting a comeback. He also finds his teenaged daughter Miranda (Molly Ringwald) irritating.

When he stumbles upon Antonia seeking intimacy outside their marriage, Phillip packs up his life and heads to Greece with Miranda, desperate to rediscover his passion. In Athens they meet nightclub singer Aretha (Susan Sarandon), and she quickly becomes Phillip's lover. In search of a rustic lifestyle Philip, Aretha and Miranda relocate to a rugged and isolated island, where the only other resident is goat farmer Kalibanos (Raul Julia).

Inspired by Shakespeare's play, Tempest is directed, co-written and co-produced by Paul Mazursky. At a meandering 142 minutes, the signs of bloat are obvious, particularly when the third act loses all focus and falls well short of capping the preceding profundity.

Philip's story is presented in two timelines. On the Greek island, he desperately tries to reinvent himself as a happy recluse, satisfied without all of modernity's luxuries. Aretha and Miranda are less impressed and quite tired of the isolation. In  multiple flashbacks, Philip circulates among New York's elites, living in an elegant condominium of his own design, married to Antonia and working for Alonzo. He has all the ingredients for happiness but is imprisoned by the eternal is-this-all-there-is question.

Mazursky plays lightly on many themes. Phillip's tortured state of mind is represented by electric storms, conjured up as bookends to his crisis. His attempt at island celibacy, leaving Aretha quite hot and bothered, is the product of a disoriented psyche still partially loyal to Antonia. Philip's inability to come to terms with Miranda blooming into a young adult is a further demonstration of his creeping shortcomings. And joyous singing interludes punctuate the drama, often helping to boost spirits threatened by the eccentricities of a futile battle with the advancing years.

With Raul Julia unconstrained, Kalibanos' buffoonish pursuit of Miranda occupies too much screen time, although his lecherous quest affords Molly Ringwald plenty of scene-stealing opportunities. The rest of the cast members find depth within their characters, Cassavetes allowing the weight of unmet expectations to etch his face, Rowlands matching him as a resilient wife who will find alternatives to an inattentive, distracted and self-obsessed husband.

Phillip's old and new lives are on an inevitable collision course, but whilst the Tempest build-up is spasmodically turbulent, the resolution is simplistically tepid. 

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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