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'Now' didn't need to be a movie

Matt Pais movie review: 'Now: In the Wings on a World Stage'

Matt Pais, @mattpais

RedEye movie critic

12:00 AM CDT, May 1, 2014

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*1/2 (out of four)

If you cared enough to buy a DVD chronicling the time star Kevin Spacey and director Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”) traveled the world performing Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” you’d probably be psyched for a bonus disc of behind-the-scenes footage. That content would show some of the cast’s preparation and a lot of comments about how great the play is. As they travel to Italy, Qatar, Australia, Greece, Istanbul and more, you’d see some of the fun these folks have on off days, evidence of their close bond and the theater community as a family and blah blah blah.

But someone decided “Now,” opening Friday at the Gene Siskel Film Center, deserved time in theaters. First-time director Jeremy Whelehan captures no conflict or notable challenges in delivering this play in major venues around the planet. Other than showing that Chinese audiences listen better than American crowds, Whelehan neglects to contrast the differences among worldwide theater fans or how the play may unfold differently before different perspectives. The film doesn’t even provide basic context about “Richard III” or the actors, so you’d best have a background in Shakespeare.

Throughout “Now” I couldn’t help think about how much I loved Wim Wenders’ doc “Pina,” which toasted German choreographer Pina Bausch through 3-D presentations of dancers bringing her work to life. That movie explored the power of movement to incredible effect. “Now” has a few valid tidbits about the actors’ process and need to bond as people so as not to let off-stage tension reveal itself during the show. But when Spacey says he lets complicated things inside himself “[bleeping] come out” in his performance, you wish you could get some details. And Mendes and co-star Gemma Jones seem to be competing to use the most obvious, eye-roll-worthy theater cliché possible. Feel free to vote on which comment is worse:

“The thrill of theater is the fact that it’s alive.”

“I like to think that I work from a place of truth.”

Barf.

Watch Matt review the week's big new movies Fridays at noon on NBC.

mpais@tribune.com

 

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