Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Retro Review: The Lion in Winter (1968)
I feel that it is a relief that when looking for material to adapt and put to film, we have stage plays to look into. Plenty of those have such juicy characters for the actors to sink their claws into and even touch on human themes. But The Lion In Winter has quite the juicy roles that really allow the actors playing them to "roar".
The Lion In Winter follows the story of King Henry II (Peter O'Toole) and his struggle to find an heir to his throne. He then seeks the help of his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katharine Hepburn), who he regularly has imprisoned. Between their three sons: Richard the Lionheart (Anthony Hopkins), John (Nigel Terry), and Geoffrey (John Castle), Eleanor wants Richard but Henry wants John. The rest of the film involves a battle of wits and scheming in order to claim the throne and around Christmastime.
First off, the acting is top-notch. I'll start off by discussing Katharine Hepburn. Pardon my french, but Holy Fuck, did she kill it! She is cunning and manipulative yet self-loathing and vulnerable. The way Hepburn channels her character's neuroticism is through the clinching of her teeth and sleazy smile and she absolutely more than deserved her Best Actress Oscar. One of the best performances I've ever seen in my entire life! Her co-star Peter O'Toole is equally as phenomenal. O'Toole brilliantly plays the character of King Henry II who is very tough and calculating yet still falls weak at the knees to those around him. I also loved how the brothers in their special trio each had their own distinct personality: Richard is the lion-hearted one, hence his nickname. John is the rather meek brother and Geoffrey is essentially the "brains" of the bunch. As the films progresses, the audience is able to decide who they want to succeed their father's throne. This is very much an actor's movie as all the actors bring in their A-game in this and not just the two leads.
I even liked the way Anthony Harvey, the director, structured the film. The film is based off an old Broadway play and the film itself has a stage feel, yet I loved that since the stagey feel allows two different art forms fused together. I also loved how despite its nearly 2 and a half hour running time, I was not bored at all throughout the whole thing. The film is mostly based on dialogue and the way the characters interacted with each other yet I was engaged the entire film. I feel it is in large part due to how the actors play their parts and play off of one another. Not only that, but how it really focuses on its themes of manipulation and dominance. As I have said, the film follows the characters scheming one another and involves seizing power over the king's throne.
Overall, The Lion In Winter is a top-notch master class in acting as it keeps you engaged until the end. However, I feel that because it is very dialogue-based, it won't be for those that love to see action throughout. But if you want to watch a film for brilliant acting and don't mind films that are dialogue heavy, give this one a watch.