The Dresser | Chicago Reader

The Dresser

Director Peter Yates seems to have decided that the way to make a movie about the theater is to suppress every trace of the cinematic. His 1983 adaptation of Ronald Harwood's play comes down to a scenery-chomping contest between Albert Finney, as a legendary Shakespearean actor on his last legs, and Tom Courtenay, as the loyal dresser who must give his master the courage to go on. The performances are wildly overscaled, which is predictable, but they're also surprisingly moldy—rehearsed far beyond the point where they lose the spontaneity and flashing inspiration that are essential to film. Harwood's play is a shallow, clever thing that shows off its surface profundities (for instance, paralleling the dresser with the little people struggling to uphold empire's image during World War II) while sacrificing the deep psychology of its characters to excessively tidy plotting. With Edward Fox.

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