Title: The Dresser
Director: Peter Yates
Writer: Ronald Harwood
Music: James Horner
Cinematography: Kelvin Pike
Adapted by a 1981 Broadway sensation, its film counterpart is a hidden treasure of its time (although it achieved 5 nominations in the Oscar including BEST PICTURE, BEST DIRECTOR, BEST ACTORX2 and BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY) but has been rarely mentioned and seen by a younger generation, I have no idea of its existence until recently. I feel kind of cherished to have a chance to watch this UK production since the play-in-a-play structure generally is my cup of tea.
Then it proves that this is an exceedingly diverting film from the late director Peter Yates even though the quintessence of pleasure may lie in Finney and Courtenay’s crack two-hander, which is beyond any thespian methods, two utterly gallant performances brilliantly deliver every tiny little nuance and never descend into a stasis of tedious affectation. Theatrical adaption has always been an impeccable showcase for actors. A copybook triumph from both Finney and Courtney. The King Lear play in the film proffers a tour-de-force stage for Finney’s expertise and his overpowering sway is both intimidating and entertaining; as for Courtenay, whose character molding even merits more pluck due to the self-challenging devoutness. Which one I prefer, after some contemplative thinking, despite of Finney’s pretty fierce endeavor, I will choose Courtenay, a lesser known actor but achieves a more startling reverberation.
Among the supporting roles, Eileen Atkins is managing to steal some flare from two leading players, she is so underrated and should be ranked alongside Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Helen Mirren, among the most venerated names inside the so-called UK Dame coterie.
The film has set up a perfect mode for the contemporary play-goes-film trend, within some minimal usage of settings, the impact has been magnified in an index level to be seen by a much larger audience. The screenplay is the keystone here, that’s why they’re emerging in an inexhaustible tide which verifies that theatrical play is an endless fodder-provider for both awards-craving production companies and thespians.