Thursday, April 17, 2014

Scotland PA


My heart is still pounding from my narrow escape from a fate worse than death at Mr. Stryker's home the other night. I had Joseph, my manager, call him and tell him that he nearly gave a living legend a coronary in his living room and that he was not to contact me again in any way shape or form or I would have LAPD all over him. Or maybe not, he might enjoy that just a little too much. Sources tell me that he's busy turning our little drama into a country and western ditty, Video Shocked the Radiant Star, for a new album project. Just so long as he leaves my good name out of it.

Madame Rose, my manager, has been hard at work with my attorneys over the demands of the Spanish government regarding the tanker spill leaking Lesterene brand shrimp and avocado facial mask onto the shores of Galicia. They're sure it won't be a problem but the cash flow is tight so Madame Rose has made me promise that I'll take the first project that promises the money up front. She thinks she has just the thing and is sending the proposal over by special courier. She's sure I'll enjoy it as it involves exotic travel, a large appearance fee, and a chance to socialize with old friends. It sounds intriguing and, unless it involves on-screen nudity or Jeff Stryker, I'm sure to accept.

While waiting, I repaired to the home theater where I sought comfort in the classics. I had a hankering for Shakespeare, but couldn't find any in my 'to view' pile, so settled for the next best thing, a modern Shakespearean adaptation. My choice was Billy Morrissette's Scotland, PA, a comic take on Macbeth, set in the fast food industry. Just what inspired this marriage of Macbeth and McDonald's, I'm not sure. It's one of those lunatic pairings that I'm sure looked great on paper but which is not so wonderful in execution.

James LeGros stars as Joe 'Mac' McBeth, a somewhat dimwitted employee of Duncan's hamburger restaurant in the small town of Scotland, Pennsylvania. The time is 1975, an era of bad hair, bad clothes, and stadium rock, all of which make appearances. Mac is married to sex kitten Maura Tierney, who has the drive and ambition he lacks. Together, they catch the manager at Duncan's embezzling, bring it to the attention of the boss, and Mac is rewarded with the managerial position. The boss, Norm Duncan (James Rebhorn), has this grandiose notion of drive through fast food and lets the McBeth's in on his plans. Mac, egged on by his wife, rewards him with an iron skillet to the head and his face in the deep fat fryer. His sons, Malcolm (Tom Guiry) and Donald (Geoff Dunsworth), sell out to the McBeths and they, presenting the drive through as their own idea, soon make McBeth's hamburgers the talk of the town. Best friend Anthony 'Banco' Banconi (Kevin Corrigan), is suspicious, however, and soon meets with an accident and police detective McDuff (Christopher Walken), with fast food ambitions of his own, is hot on the trail. Add in a trio of hippies (including Andy Dick) with a penchant for fortune telling and you have the outlines of a famous Scottish Play.

There have been multiple film adaptations of Shakespeare's plots to another idiom. (Macbeth is a perennial favorite. Other adaptations include the crime drama Men of Respect and Kurosawa's Throne of Blood). Some of these succeed. Many fail. The failures tend to occur because the film makers forget that the strength of Shakespeare is not in his plotting, but in his language and delineation of character.  This genius allows the plays to remain relevant to each new generation. I had some hope for Scotland, PA as the opening scenes gave some suggestion that writer/director Morrissette understood this. The first encounter of McBeth and the hippies closely parallels the structure of the original play and plays with the language in some clever ways (especially the line, 'Fair is foul, and foul is fair'.) Unfortunately, after this promising start, Morrissette jettisons all of the original text. There are no echoes of the famous lines, even such obvious ones as 'Out damned spot' and 'Lay on Macduff'. He simply keeps the bare bones of the plot, which wasn't the best of plots, even in Shakespeare's day.

His cast is game, and obviously having fun with their roles. LeGros, one of the kings of indie cinema, turns in another of his patented dolts with sculpted cheek bones. He's hidden by a bad wig, but he does seem to catch some of the natural charm that Macbeth must have in order to ascend in the way he does. Maura Tierney plays his lady as a hard as nails hoyden. She has the spark to bring the part alive and it's too bad she wasn't given some lines with which to do it. Christopher Walken, as their antagonist, does his usual glassy-eyed stranger bit. He's fine, but seems out of step with the rest of the cast and his scenes with the McBeths don't seem to resonate, as if he were on a different wavelength. I put it down to poor direction. The supporting cast are all journeymen unknowns, for the most part, they're adequate but none of them stands out (although I did enjoy Geoff Dunsworth's pitch perfect budding theater queen.)

The time setting of 1975 seems to have been chosen mainly to allow the inclusion of vaguely familiar mid-70s rock on the soundtrack and to hide most of the cast in hideous ensembles of polyester and corduroy. The wig budget must have been substantial for a film of this size, but they should have gotten them from somewhere other than Wal-Mart as they all look exceedingly plastic. There's nothing more distracting in a close-up than someone's hair looking like it's about to either fall off, or crawl away and hibernate.

This is a film that's a pleasant diversion for those familiar with Macbeth as you wait to see how they'll incorporate the various characters and plot threads. It's likely to bore all others.

Garage band lounge singing. Ferris wheel riding. Neon lit diner. Fast food sex. Bad Godspell singing. Ineffective unguents. Near trademark infringement. Rooftop battle. Gratuitous artificial tan jokes.

No comments:

Post a Comment