NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage (NR)

Documentary 93 min. May 2, 2014
By Alan Scherstuhl
Kevin Spacey proved a gnarled and magnificent Richard III in Sam Mendes's globe-straddling 2011–2012 production of Shakespeare's ever-resonant tragedy. Crimped up like a ginger root, Spacey's power-mad runt schemed and spat with consummate wickedness, tilting between the comic and the terrifying, even stirring something like sympathy. Too bad this doc covering the production's 200 performances around the world is committed to the undertaking rather than to the work itself.

Early on, we hear Spacey's Richard bark, "Now is the winter of our discontent," but Jeremy Whelehan's film, distractible as a puppy in a room full of tennis balls, then jumps to something else, apparently suffering from the misapprehension that watching stage crews mount the sets or audiences file into theaters must be more edifying for audiences than hearing one of the world's great actors speak more than the very first line of one of the world's great plays.

Only one speech from the whole of Richard III sneaks into the hurly burly of smiling castmembers bonding in Beijing, Qatar, and other spectacular places. Guess what? Touring the world for a year with a difficult play and a top-flight cast is both a pleasure and a hardship.

The movie is more the latter, although it occasionally honors the production itself with discussion of the specifics of performance or design. More often it's devoted to the un-urgent business of letting us know that the cast did enjoy seeing the Great Wall of China. In the end, all NOW reveals is that talented people did a difficult thing in far-off places -- and that now they have a video scrapbook.
Jeremy Whelehan Kevin Spacey, Maureen Anderman, Stephen Lee Anderson, Jeremy Bobb, Jack Ellis, Hadyn Dwynne, Chukwudi Iwuji, Isaiah Johnson Abramorama Entertainment


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