Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Shakespeare Retold: Macbeth (2005)

Joe MacBeth loves to prepare fine food.  He revels in his job as the head chef at a restaurant, and his work there is about to earn a coveted three star Michelin rating.  He has every reason to be proud of his achievements.  Unfortunately, however, almost no-one knows about them.

You see, the owner of the restaurant is celebrity chef Duncan Docherty, and as far as the general public knows, he's the one turning out these works of culinary art.  MacBeth naturally resents this situation, but figures there is nothing he can really do about it.  Duncan pays the bills, and when he finally dies the restaurant will go his son, whom MacBeth is training.

But then MacBeth has a strange encounter with three eerily prescient bin collectors, who forecast that everything will soon be his.  And if he's not sure how that could ever come to be - well, his wife has a few ideas ...

One of the challenges of adapting Shakespeare to a modern day setting is finding one in which the violence of his work doesn't seem out of place.  That's why Geoffrey Wright set his (disappointing) version within organised crime, for instance.  This challenge isn't really well handled in this adaptation.  I'm willing to buy that MacBeth might be convinced to murder Duncan.  We've been shown he has plenty of reason to be resentful, after all.  But this film keeps most of the body count from the play, which strained my credulity passed its breaking point.  I'd have liked to see a more inventive reinterpretation in how characters were written out of the story.

This failure is a shame I think, because the performances are very good.  Keeley Hawes is a great Lady MacBeth, and James McAvoy - probably now best known for playing Charles Xavier in the more recent X-Men films - is excellent in the lead role.  It's unfortunate they didn't get a stronger adaptation to work with.

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