Onstage, the delicate mixture of farce and tragedy that writer Alan Ayckbourn brought to A Chorus of Disapproval is a marvel to behold. Onscreen, it comes off as a movie that doesn't know what it wants to be. Part of this is because Ayckbourn's clever machinations benefit from the artifice of the stage, but the lion's share belongs to director Michael Winner and star Jeremy Irons. Irons is supremely talented, but he's titanically miscast here, lacking in warmth, timing and appeal. The role calls for an expert farceur with the lightest of touches; Irons confuses "light" with inconsequential and insubstantial, leaving a gaping hole at the center of the film. He is not helped by Winner, who is unable to come up with the proper tone – and fails to set up the laughs so that most fail to land. Fortunately, Chorus is saved by its supporting cast, especially Anthony Hopkins and Prunella Scales. Hopkins' performance is devastatingly funny, a marvelously realized portrait of an ego-driven tyrant, a big fish who has become trapped in his own small pond. Scales plumbs the bleak barrenness of her character in a performance that is painfully earnest; her brief moment with the doll that represents her husband is quietly stunning. While Chorus is ultimately disappointing, it does contain some isolated moments that cannot fail to impress.
by Craig Butler review