‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ Review: Shakespeare in the Dark

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The Tragedy of Macbeth (CREDIT: Alison Cohen Rosa/A24)

Starring: Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Corey Hawkins, Brendon Gleeson, Harry Melling, Bertie Carvel, Alex Hassell, Kathryn Hunter, Moses Ingram, Ralph Ineson, Sean Patrick Thomas, Stephen Root, Brian Thompson, Richard Short

Director: Joel Coen

Running Time: 105 Minutes

Rating: R for Bloody Swordplay

Release Date: December 25, 2021 (Theaters)/January 14, 2022 (Apple TV+)

When reviewing a new Shakespeare adaptation, especially one of the Bard’s most popular productions, it makes sense to ask: what makes this version different? So as Joel Coen goes solo to take on The Scottish Play, what uniqueness has he brought to the table? Well, he did cast his wife Frances McDormand as Lady Macbeth, so that could potentially be some fertile ground for psychoanalysis. Or maybe not! She’s already been in plenty of his films, and I’m willing to guess that this isn’t the first time that a director’s wife has been cast in something Shakespearean. Denzel Washington certainly brings some more melanin than usual to the title role, but ultimately that’s neither here nor there. He’s Denzel Washington after all, so why not cast him in one of the most dramatically hefty parts in all of English-language drama?

Overall, one word comes to mind when trying to identify The Tragedy of Macbeth‘s uniqueness, and that word is: surreal. I don’t know if that’s what Coen was specifically aiming for, and I in fact wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t a consideration at all. But no matter how it happened, it showed up. One huge reason for that is the dialogue itself; it’s strange to speak in iambic pentameter all the time, after all. On top of that, the geography within the castle walls never quite makes visual sense. Instead, it’s like a maze that the characters are perpetually stuck within. Combine that with Bruno Delbonnel’s stark black-and-white cinematography, and the whole film comes across as a dream that curdles into a nightmare. And as so often happens when I see a movie that lacks bright colors, I nodded off throughout, which only added to the sense that I slipped through some parallel dimension or underworld.

One more element that really stands out is Kathryn Hunter’s performance as the witchy weird sisters. She contorts herself into seemingly inhuman positions, which is a wise acting decision, considering that her characters are meant to be somewhere in between human and supernatural. I didn’t ask to see a huge disembodied toe stuck between someone else’s toes, but now I won’t be able to forget it. Nor will I be able to forget the shot of the one sister standing over a pool that reflects back the other two sisters. This is a striking Shakespearean adaptation, is what I’m saying.

The Tragedy of Macbeth is Recommended If You Like: Claustrophobia, Cruel fate, Maximum weirdness

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Usurpers

Movie Review: ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ Puts Mexican Folklore to Some Scary Good Use

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CREDIT: Warner Bros.

Starring: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velásquez, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Roman Christou, Marisol Ramirez, Sean Patrick Thomas, Tony Amendola

Director: Michael Chaves

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Rating: R for Intense Horror Makeup, Drowning, Skin Burns, and Some Gunshots

Release Date: April 19, 2019

It’s generally promising when a horror movie grounds itself in some well-crafted folklore, and The Curse of La Llorona offers a bit of an emotional doozy. Originating in Mexico, the tale of La Llorona (“The Weeping Woman” in English) is of a mother who drowned her two sons after becoming enslaved by a blind rage from discovering her husband with another woman. She now lurks the spirit world in a white gown, taking other children as her own and often drowning them as well. A notice posted by the studio outside the theater assured me that La Llorona is indeed somewhere out in the real world. You don’t have to believe in ghosts to accept that as effective showmanship. This is a monster with a formidable motivation, enough to make you go, “Well, what are we going to do if she targets us?”

The standoff comes to Linda Cardellini as a widowed mother working as a social worker in 1973 Los Angeles. She first encounters La Llorona through her work with children living in unsafe homes. If you want to, you can dig into the subtext about the entanglement of domestic abuse and folklore. But this film is more about the surface thrills of discovering just how the boogeyman will pop up when someone closes a bathroom cabinet or opens up an umbrella. If you’re looking for camera tricks that say “Boo!”, La Llorona will scratch that itch. It also excels in some surprisingly goofy tension-breaking, especially when Raymond Cruz (Tuco of Breaking Bad) shows up as an ex-priest mystic man to exorcise some evil spirits by rubbing eggs all over the house. Weirdly enough, that moment makes sense in context. Bottom line: La Llorona efficiently pulls off its weirder-than-expected approach with a confident use of the standard horror toolkit.

The Curse of La Llorona is Recommended If You Like: Mama, Annabelle, The power of the crucifix

Grade: 3 out of 5 White Gowns