BE THE SERPENT 'NEATH IT
Film Review by Fiore
“Appear the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it.”
And with that one simple line, William Shakespeare unleashed one of literature’s greatest female antagonists. Lady Macbeth was indeed ruthless; a woman who would commit unspeakable crimes to achieve her ends. I suppose today, she would be called ‘modern’. But, though she was wicked, she had a conscience which produced a sense of remorse; an innate knowledge that, despite her goals, her actions were atrocious. Eventually, her own conscience would be her undoing. Therein, lies the cinematic rub with LADY MACBETH. This telling of the wretched shrew is bereft of moral quandary. The lead character is more of a watered-down version of Norman Bates.
In rural England, circa 1865, Katherine, played by Florence Pugh, is sold, along with a piece of property to Alexander, played by Paul Hilton. Alexander, an older man, is uninterested in Katherine, considering her more property than passion, and it is apparent this is a marriage of convenience only. They live with Alexander’s father, Boris, played by Christopher Fairbank, who is concrete on Katherine’s duties and responsibilities for the estate.
While Katherine should be grateful for her promotion in social status, she is chagrined when her husband shows no interest in her sexually. When concerns of the estate cause both Boris and Alexander to leave, she wastes little time in becoming a harlot to the stable help. Sebastian, played by Cosmo Javis, is the primary object of her lust.
The message the film delivers is unsettling; a woman must be sexually satisfied to be controlled, no matter with whom. At this point LADY MACBETH plays more like OTHELLO than its original work. I realize this is about the same time Founding Father Thomas Jefferson was allegedly colonizing America with half its black population, but there are enough interracial relationships here in Merry Old England to create a superhero series on the CW.
Once the men of the house return, Katherine begins to systematically eliminate them, and anyone in danger of exposing her and her little black boy toy. The script takes a bizarre turn with a subplot concerning a black bastard, supposedly sired by Alexander, and Katherine’s obligation to care for the lad. At this point, her wickedness peaks, but there is never an introspection of conscience or an accounting for her moral dilemmas.
1.1 KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
1. THE WEDDING NIGHT
2. ALEXANDER RETURNS HOME
Technically, LADY MACBETH provides yeoman responses from Cinematographer Ari Wegner and Editor Nick Emerson. The score, by Dan Jones, is nondescript.
Let’s take a look at the report card for LADY MACBETH:
1.2 ACTING = B
1.3 CIEMATOGRAPHY = C
1.4 SOUND/MUSIC = C
1.5 EDITING = C
1.6 LIGHTING = C
1.7 SCRIPT = D
1.8 SFX = D
1.9 ACTION = C
LADY MACBETH is a film for all the ladies wishing to release their evil sides, if only through celluloid fantasies. Men will find this film a necessary evil to keep the ladies happy. After all, if you want to see JUSTICE LEAGUE, you may have to sit through this one as payment.
In the final analysis, however, Pugh’s Katherine is a soulless hussy not worthy of the audience’s empathy, and not convincing enough to make them root for the bad gal. The blatant reveal of social injustice is sure to make the critics of the fabled two letter cities scream LADY MACBETH’s praises. Do not be fooled by these usurpers! This script lacks the soul to make the character memorable. For this version of LADY MACBETH, I say:“get thee to a nunnery, wench!”