Vanya on 42nd Street (1994)

Genres - Drama, Avant-garde / Experimental  |   Sub-Genres - Family Drama, Romantic Drama, Ensemble Film  |   Release Date - Oct 19, 1994 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 119 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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A clever and powerful interpretation of the Anton Chekhov play Uncle Vanya, Vanya on 42nd Street reunites director Louis Malle with Wallace Shawn and André Gregory, his collaborators from 1981's My Dinner With André. Like that film, Vanya is a self-reflexive examination of the thin line between an actor's performances and his or her own life; the success of both films relies on Malle's ability to convincingly blur that distinction. Essentially a filmed rehearsal, Vanya's spare production design -- no costumes, no set, just an empty, rundown theater -- gives it tremendous resonance. Without a uniformly excellent cast, the film might have come off as merely conceptual; thankfully, Malle is aided by Shawn, surprisingly effective in the play's (and the film's) title role, and the emotive Julianne Moore as Yelena. Brooke Smith's heartbreaking performance as the ignored Sonya, however, really steals the film.