The Cherry Orchard

"Very Good"

The Cherry Orchard Review


Actors understandably welcome the opportunity to perform Chekhov, whose plays are painfully funny in their quiet observation of human folly. In Uncle Vanya and The Three Sisters, we recognize some part of ourselves. Renowned director Michael Cacoyannis, who helmed Zorba the Greek in 1964, assembles a powerhouse international cast for his screen interpretation of The Cherry Orchard, including Alan Bates (Gosford Park), Katrin Cartlidge (Breaking the Waves), and Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures). That great horror actor Michael Gough is well typecast as an ancient butler, and grand dame Charlotte Rampling's timeless iconic presence lends itself beautifully to the tragic Madame Lyubov Andreyevna Raneskaya.

Despite the remarkable assemblage of talent, Cacoyannis' Cherry Orchard feels self-aware of adapting a renowned classic from stage to screen. The cinematography is handsome and stately, but more appropriate to the colorful orchards and vast family estate, the 1900 costumes, the theatrical entrances and exits, than to the intimacy of Chekhov's vivid characters. (It almost makes one long for the hand-held documentary treatment of Louis Malle's seminal Vanya on 42nd Street.) The stylistic choices here take a while to get used to, especially during a drawn-out prologue, absent in the original text, as Madame Lyubov and her buoyant teenage daughter Anna (Tushka Bergen) make elaborate preparations to return to their Russian estate after a self-imposed exile. Some may be exhausted by this Masterpiece Theater treatment (lingering over every piece of luggage) before Chekhov's social entanglements kick in -- which happens shortly after the dozen major characters have assembled at their estate.

As members of the aristocracy, Madame Lyubov and her gregarious brother (Bates) subscribe to the grand manner, throw parties, entertain guests, and ignore their ever-increasing debts. It seems unfathomable that a new world order of industrial progress is right around the corner. Like a harbinger of doom, their neighbor, self-made man Lopahin (wily newcomer Owen Teale) circulates among them, warning that their land will be auctioned off unless they sell a portion of their beloved cherry orchard. (His exasperated dialogue might be paraphrased as, "You must sell the orchard! You must sell the orchard! You must sell the orchard! Oh, you silly, silly fools! You must sell the orchard!") But no one listens, as the deadline grows ever closer. Relationships blossom among the servants, and a never-spoken attraction emerges between Lopahin and Lyubov's prim eldest daughter (Cartlidge, nicely cast against type).

As the financial crisis reaches its peak, a fanciful soiree is thrown as the family waits for a miracle. Those who read Chekhov will know the inevitable outcome, but the joys of watching The Cherry Orchard aren't in the ticking time bomb plot. Like the superior Gosford Park, it's a collection of moments that illuminate the rigors of class structure, made accessible through remarkable performances. Cartlidge is particularly stunning, her thin frame made rigid by constricting dresses. She's seen marching through the house in a commanding stride, wayward servants begrudgingly obliging her whims. Alan Bates is simply charming, selling the comedy of his absent-minded noblesse and finding sulky pathos within his corpulence. When asked if he'd like to take a walk in the fields, he doesn't say anything, but his expression is that of the out-of-shape kid in gym class who'd really rather not play volleyball today.

Badly played Chekhov is unendurable, generally the case when it's handled without a light touch. The Cherry Orchard is somewhere in between, too self-serious in its formalism and blessed with the actors as counterpunch. But it's enjoyable in the way long summer afternoons can be, and once I fell into its peculiar rhythms it was easier to give it the benefit of the doubt. Woody Allen has been making some of the best Chekhov films for years, and they aren't even straight adaptations. Those curious to see the roots of Woody's labor will find a sometimes daunting, often amusing testament in this well pruned Cherry Orchard.

Aka Varya.



The Cherry Orchard

Facts and Figures

Run time: 141 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 12th January 2000

Box Office Worldwide: 135

Budget: 5

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

IMDB: 6.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

On the Road Movie Review

On the Road Movie Review

Wolf Alice fans are likely to be rather disappointed by this hybrid documentary-drama about the...

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Skilfully made by Swedish filmmaker Janus Metz (the award-winning Armadillo), this film is essentially a...

Advertisement
The Glass Castle Movie Review

The Glass Castle Movie Review

There are quite a few terrific moments in this true story, based on the memoir...

Home Again Movie Review

Home Again Movie Review

Reese Witherspoon is so likeable that she can carry even the most hackneyed of romantic...

Brimstone Movie Review

Brimstone Movie Review

An unnerving Western with a sharp female perspective, this film is a series of gruesome...

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Two years ago, Kingsman: The Secret Service seemed to come out of nowhere, ruffling feathers...

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

This biopic about Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne may look like the usual lushly...

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.