Since the days of silent pictures, the film industry has used the stage as a source of material for the big screen. With original material becoming increasingly difficult for studios to greenlight, the number of films in theaters and streaming services that have been adapted from parts is only increasing.
Due to their emphasis on sharp dialogue and tense drama, plays often translate very fluently to the big screen. While movies like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and West Side Storybecame big screen hits, there are a number of great theatrical adaptations that have flown under the radar throughout movie history.
“The Whale” (2022)
Over the past decade, through films such as Noah and Mother!, Darren Aronofsky proved to be one of the most talented and controversial filmmakers working in Hollywood. His latest movie The whaleadapted from the play of the same name by Samuel D Hunterstars Brendan Fraser as a reclusive teacher trying to reconnect with his teenage daughter.
As he did with mickey rourke in The wrestler, Aronofsky rips off a transformative performance from a former frontman who has already begun garnering plenty of acclaim. A faithful adaptation of the original, The whale works as powerfully in theater as it does on stage, mostly because it manages to retain its intensity and intimacy.
Perhaps the most underrated film in the vast catalog of Richard Linklater, Band the quality far exceeds its measly $100,000 budget. One piece for threesome Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, and Uma Thurman, Ribbon begins as a meeting between two old high school friends that quickly reveals unsolved secrets.
The screenplay, by the original playwright Stephen Belber, moves effortlessly through the plot with perfect pacing and timing. Confined to a single location like in the stage production, Tape features high-end acting, with Hawke in particular showing incredible versatility and range as an actor. Clever and full of suspense, the secrets of Ribbon unravel to create a dark and uplifting adaptation.
Not to be confused with Penelope Spheeris’ 1984 cult classic of the same name, 1996’s SubUrbia affirms Richard Linklater as a master of stage adaptation. Written and adapted by a versatile Renaissance actor, monologue and man Eric Bogosian, SubUrbia unfolds around the monotonous life of five teenagers in the fictional small town of Burnfield. The darkest and most desolate cousin of Dazed and confused, SubUrbia also features an immaculate 90s soundtrack.
After the critical and commercial successes of Dazed and confused and before sunrise, it would have seemed like a confusing choice at the time for Linklater to make a standalone film from another writer. However, this just proves the quality of the writing that SubUrbia possesses. With an ensemble cast featuring some of the best character actors of the 90s such as Parker Posey and Nicky Kat, SubUrbia is a sometimes hilarious, sometimes melancholic look at the hope and unease of adolescents.
‘When are you coming back, Red Ryder?’ (1979)
Led by a veteran director and acting instructor Milton Katselas, When will you be back, Red Ryder? it’s almost two hours of pure on-screen ferocity. Featuring a former evangelist and occasional actor Marjoe Gortnerthe film centers on a troubled Vietnam veteran who holds the customers of a roadside diner hostage and subjects them to his wrath and wrath.
Written by Marc Medoffwho would later be nominated for an Oscar for Children of a lesser God, When are you coming back to Red Ryder? is a blunt and unapologetic retrospective critique of 1960s American culture. With minimal attention upon its release, the film isn’t widely known, but with its winning supporting performances and wild energy, it certainly should. to be.
‘Rabbit Hole’ (2010)
rabbit hole delicately explores its subject matter, which includes loss and grief, to deliver an extremely touching and deeply tragic film. Featuring aaron eckart and Nicole Kidmanwho would be nominated for an Oscar for her role, rabbit hole explores a couple who explore comfort in different ways after their young son is killed in a traffic accident.
The film, adapted by David Lindsay Abaire of his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, features several scenes and extended storylines from the stage version. However, this proves beneficial, allowing for rich backing performances, including Sandra Oh and Diane West. John Cameron Mitchell the direction is soft, which makes the film challenging but ultimately rewarding rabbit hole go down.
“Six Degrees of Separation” (1993)
SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION did not prove Will Smith was a movie star, but it proved he was a great actor. Written by Jean Guare from his acclaimed 1990 play, the film is about Paul, a young man who shows up unannounced at the apartment of a wealthy New York couple, claiming to be a friend of their children as well as the actor’s son Sydney Poitier. Despite being an adaptation of a well-known stage play, the film failed to gain traction at the box office, grossing a meager $6.4 million.
Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing are exceptional as waspy socialites, but it’s Smith who steals the show. Her multi-faceted performance shows her vulnerability, charm and cunning, highlighted by one of the decade’s great monologues. Both biting social satire and ingenious comedy, SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION expands its source material into a brilliantly literate and engrossing watch.
“Melvin Goes to Dinner” (2003)
It’s hard to find a movie with more adored actors than Melvin is going to dinner. Not to mention the one that made less than five thousand dollars at the box office. Written and co-starred Michael Bliedenbased on his play Phyro-Giants!, Melvin is going to dinner is about four loosely connected friends who engage in heated conversation one night over dinner.
Realized by Bob Odenkerkthe film features cameos from Jack Black, Fred Armisenand Kristen Wiig, as well as many other well-known actors and comedians. While dialogue is the star of the film, Melvin is going to dinner has an unusual engaging plot with an awesome twist at the end, making for a consistently fun and entertaining watch.
‘Vanya on 42nd Street’ (1994)
This one cheats a bit. A film adaptation of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, Vanya on 42nd Street features an ensemble cast performing Chekhov’s masterpiece adapted by the great American playwright David Mamet. Documented by Louis Malle in his last film, the idea was conceived by a longtime collaborator of Malle Andre Gregoire like a filmed rehearsal of a real production that Gregory had worked on.
movie stars Wallace Shawnanother longtime partner of Malle and Gregory, as the titular Vanya, while Julianne Moore portrays Yelena. While audience fanfare was modest, the film ended up on the year-end lists of many critics, including Kenneth Turan and Gene Siskel. With Moore giving a gripping show, Vanya on 42nd Street is an unfiltered showcase of a premier production of an acclaimed play.
“The Shape of Things” (2003)
Since being one of the most compelling playwrights and screenwriters of the late 90s and early 21st century, Neil La Bute slowly fell into oblivion. Once crowned the “reigning misanthrope” of American theater, LaBute’s recent work has been widely dismissed. This recency bias is what made his 2003 film The shape of things criminally underestimated. The film is a four-person affair led by Rachel Weisz as Evelyn, an art student who begins dating the impressionable Adam, played by Paul Rudd.
All actors reprise their roles from the original production of LaBute’s play. The film, which LaBute adapted and directed himself, explores the themes that put him on the map with 1997’s In the company of men, including intimacy and psychopathy. Almost 20 years in, The shape of things is sharp, cruel, and above all should not be forgotten.
“Death and the Maiden” (1994)
An acting masterclass, Death and the Maiden is a tense confrontation between a woman and the man she believes to be her former abuser. Featuring Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingley next to Stuart Wilsonthe film slowly unravels to reveal its painful mystery with expert skill.
Realized by Roman Polanskythe film failed to gain mainstream exposure, although it was adapted by Ariel Dorfmann of its own rather prominent piece. The combination of masterful directing and world-class acting from Kingsley and Weaver makes Death and the Maiden a seamless, if understated, screen adaptation.
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‘The Whale’ And 9 Other Underrated Movies Adapted From Plays – GameSpot