New York Post
Stage-to-screen doesn’t always fly
THROWING a play onto the big screen is always risky.
It can be the best choice a studio ever makes (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”) or the absolute worst (“August: Osage County”). Even when plays ride into Hollywood on waves of critical acclaim and box-office magic, their cinematic sisters can still flop big time.
Viewers instantly sense when a film is too stagey or a moment doesn’t feel quite right. Why has this character been talking for so damn long? Are we truly not going to meet this offcamera mistress he keeps droning on about?
Regardless of its perils, producers and directors keep going back to the well for more.
The new movie “Una” is based on Scottish writer David Harrower’s play “Blackbird,” which starred Michelle Williams and Jeff Daniels on Broadway in 2016. It’s notable for its tough subject matter: an adult woman confronting a much older man who sexually abused her when she was 12.
Having sat through — squirmed through, really — the play last year, a strange realization came over me while watching the movie: This is much, much easier to take.
As with absentmindedly downing a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts, that’s not a good thing.
Onstage, the two characters were trapped together in a stark, bright room for 90 minutes, explosively battling each other while breathing the same musty theater air as the audience was. That collective experience was terribly uncomfortable, and Williams’ performance was as big and bold as a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float.
But it’s the group cringing, the nervous sweating and, indeed, the size that made “Blackbird” work.
“Una,” which stars a typically introverted Rooney Mara, is less inyour-face and far subtler. Just part of it takes place in that tense office. Sometimes she’s at a club or hanging out at a friend’s place, playing with dogs. Those social interactions really take the edge off.
The win here is that Mara’s character is imbued with a richer, more detailed emotional life. The major loss, however, is that the viewer leaves the movie feeling deflated, rather than floored.
Not to play favorites, but I’ll take “Blackbird.”