August (1996)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Drama  |   Release Date - Apr 19, 1996 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Released a few years after Vanya on 42nd Street, August suffers mightily in comparison that far superior version of Uncle Vanya. But even on its own terms, August is at best a middling movie. Part of the problem is the screenplay; Julian Mitchell's stilted adaptation reduces Chekhov to bare bones, with the result that one of the classics of world theatre comes across as rather simple minded. A bigger problem, however, is Anthony Hopkins' direction. One of the screen's most gifted and powerful actors, he has no real point of view in his directing debut. Scenes meander without real purpose, beautiful images are captured to no effect, the camera is used to record rather than to observe, and while some of the performances have interesting individual moments, the members of the cast seem to be acting in different movies. Hopkins is much better as an actor than director; his performance does provide some glue to hold things together, and there are isolated wonderful moments. There are also, however, a number of over-the-top excesses that another director would not have allowed him. Kate Burton's icy, robotic performance is damaging, although one assumes the interpretation was guided by the director. August's attractive physical production is a plus, but overall the film is a disappointment.