Passion (1996)

Genres - Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Musical Drama, Romantic Drama  |   Run Time - 115 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Like the Broadway musical of which it is a filmed record, Passion is likely to inspire passionate reactions in viewers, most of whom will either loathe it or adore it. Passion demands a lot from its audience, not the least of which is a total willingness to immerse oneself in the story being presented and to allow oneself to be swept up in the obsessive emotions that form its core. Many viewers will simply be unwilling to go along with this, and it's easy to see why. Passion's story is not easy to take, and the level of emotional intensity involved will strike many as unnecessary or alien and, at times, humorous. But for those willing to give 100% to the enterprise, it can be a rare and beautiful experience. Stephen Sondheim's score is glorious, but in a subtle way; the fact that the piece is arranged so that there are no musical "buttons" -- or ends to songs -- until the very end of the show is also a challenge. But the richness and passion of the music and the brilliance of the lyrics help to overcome this drawback. Best of all, Passion captures Donna Murphy's truly astonishing performance, one of the bravest, truest, most achingly beautiful ever created. It is a towering performance that achieves such heights because of the subtlety, delicacy and use of nuance that she brings to the part. Unfortunately, Murphy does not have an equal in Jere Shea. Shea is talented, mind you, with a good voice, fine looks and capable dramatic equipment. But he simply lacks the inner fire that the role requires; through no fault of his own, the immense soul that must be underneath the character is missing, and this provides an imbalance that is very damaging. Marin Mazzie is quite good as the woman he thinks he loves, and sounds simply gorgeous. And though Shea is a problem, those who are devoted to the show will find it easy enough to overlook this flaw. Those who cannot stand it will likely have tuned out after the first 20 minutes anyway.