angels apparently don't translate to television
December 8, 2003 03:12 PM

While the Angels in America television movie last night pretty much sucked, I still found myself watching it.

I think this is all about the thousand other things besides the story which the story represents to me. I kept wishing to see those things. I missed them. But the play had been reduced to only its story, which is tender and compelling, but ultimately more or less on a level with Degrassi Junior High, a fact made all the more clear by the straight-to-television production values.

Emotionally, I still feel so fondly towards the material, the characters, and the past-tense self they represent. Even in a small-screen movie, I like them.

Artistically, I think, it has two problems.

One. The very theatricality of Tony Kushner as opposed to, say, nearly any other playwright. It was an honorable choice to produce the play virtually editless, but it was the wrong choice for television. Squeezed into that tiny screen, the language starts to feel bizarre, the surreality of, say, most of Prior's experiences, becomes just so many banal special effects when the crazy shit is there on screen to see. It just felt - shrunken. Shrunken from the size of the world and your imagination to the size of an itty bitty box.

Two. Mike Nichols. He's directed an array of excellent, intimate films. But that's just the problem - intimacy. If it weren't bad enough that the play had been shrunken for television, it's now an emotional, heartfelt drama. It's Degrassi, I tell you, Degrassi! [Which, by the way, I was very fond of - it's just not transcendent in any way; it's emotional entertainment, little more.] It is not the same thing to translate Angels to the stage as it was to translate Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Not to understand that is to fail to understand theatre. While Mike is a smart guy who makes a good living on his understanding of acting (which I don't), I don't think he understands theatre in the larger sense.

Despite my broad, sweeping criticisms, I did like the movie and do think the movie has some value - certainly as a tender little story and perhaps as a continuance of the message of cross-species political and social tolerance (something HBO is really becoming expert at) - and I will be recording it to pass on to friends. Just, keep in mind, if you have any familiarity with Kushner, or with Angels that was, you may well be sorely disappointed.

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your wicked thoughts

I was trying to get someone to record this for me, but now I don't know if I should bother seeing it. I read Part 1 over 5 years ago, and got around to reading Part 2 a few weeks ago, right before I learned it was being turned into the movie. Oh well. The play scripts are worth reading though, for anyone who hasn't.

these are the thoughts of Kerri on December 8, 2003 09:48 PM

I'm not saying it's no good, though - just, it's definitely small-screen.

A good analogy is this - if you liked HBO's rendition of The Laramie Project, you might like this movie. Particularly if you never saw the play onstage. But if you saw the play, and part of what appealed to you about it was it's theatricality, you won't like the movie.

these are the thoughts of april on December 9, 2003 10:39 AM

I never got to see the play. I don't even et HBO, so I am still trying to see about finding a copy of it...but now that I know it is less than spectacular, it won't be on the top of my to-do list anymore.

these are the thoughts of Kerri on December 9, 2003 02:01 PM

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