Monday, April 11, 2005

Why I will never be paid to be a critic.

So now that Julius Caesar has officially opened, the reviews are piling up. Or I should say, more honestly--because honesty is the new theme here--I have read one or two bits about it in the Times. And the net result? Well, the hoity-toity of the New York theatre world appear to have turned up their collective nose at a play I thought was fascinating. In fact, Charles McGrath titles his review "The Play Shakespeare Wrote for Plebes," commenting, "Caesar isn't Shakespeare lite, exactly, but it can sometimes seem like Shakespeare on training wheels."

Nota bene: McGrath also opens his piece with reference to everyone's experience reading the play in high school. I can happily say that both my readers know I said it first! But then, this is not the first time I have been plagiarized by the Times.

But this is not my point. My point, and this is important if you ever read this blog, is that I tend to like things.

Take the latest Royal wedding. I am happy for them--honestly. And really, I am crazy for the hat Camilla wore to the church (her daughter's was a bit much). I feel no need to join in the snarking in which royals-watchers indulge.

But you should know this tendency of mine before I go on to say how much I absolutely loved Gurinder Chadha's Bride and Prejudice. Loved it. As in, I might go see it again tonight.

I used to think that an American high school was the only ideal setting for a revisiting of a Jane Austen novel--and really it was darn good--but now I see that, no, Bollywood is where it's at.

Of course, this is partly my love of that genre. What is not to love about a giant screen filled with people dancing in colorful costumes, moving their hips in ways that I can manage maybe once before I lose my footing? Or about the endless love stories, with arcane plot twists and casts of thousands?

Sure, sure I have read reviews that say this Mr. Darcy is made of cardboard. Fine. But cardboard can be nice to look at for 2 hours, right? And isn't so much of this genre about pretty things? And the music, of course.

I have been wondering for the last couple of days whether to blow a couple of the good details, and I have decided that I will. If you don't want them blown for you, skip this paragraph. Point is: Chadha's take on Bollywood taking on America is hilarious. Picture the couple in question having a romantic moment (during a musical number, of course) on a California beach. I doubt I need to tell you that it is sunset, and before you know it they are walking in front of several risers filled with a gospel choir, who are singing the back-up vocals for the song. But wait! Now it is a lifeguard and a surfer supplying the singing! Brilliant brilliant--and that does not even begin to touch the cross-dressed singer-dancers in the Amritsar you-are-about-to-be-married musical extravaganza.

What is more, given this genre's preoccupation with weddings, it really is the perfect venue for re-thinking Austen's novel.

My only complaint is that the film was too short. Knowing I was going to see a Bollywood movie, I had held off the liquids for hours in advance, ready for a bladder-bursting several-hour stint, and I was just settling in when it ended. Oh well: I suppose that is the downside of the Americanizing.

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