My instantant reaction to this Ophelia trailer was (and still is) that George MacKay is one dorky-looking Hamlet with an appalling pudding-bowl haircut. One glance and I was muttering “I hate this guy.” In the titular role, Daisy Ridley seems fetching as far as it goes, although she seems a little too athletic and spirited in her suicide scene. I’m sorry but you can just smell problems with this one. Any film released 18 months after debuting at Sundance almost always has problems. IFC Films will open Ophelia on 6.28.19.
From Jordan Hoffman’s Guardian pan, posted on 1.23.18, titled “Daisy Ridley stranded in disastrous Hamlet reimagining“:
“If a producer cornered me in an elevator and pitched ‘Hamlet, but from Ophelia’s point of view, and we’ve got Daisy Ridley in the lead’, I’d sell everything I had to invest. And I’d probably make a killing, as Claire McCarthy’s Ophelia is going to cut into one heck of a trailer.But to thine own self one must be true.
“This film looks absolutely gorgeous, but apart from its production design it is basically a disaster. Shakespeare purists will revolt, high-fantasy fans will be bored and the kids who make gifs of Daisy Ridley and put them on Tumblr will wait until they can pirate this anyway. This project is madness with no method to it.
“Daisy Ridley’s voiceover introduces us to Ophelia, floating in her watery grave, suggesting that only now will we hear ‘the real story’. We cut to her childhood at court, a little scamp that Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts) chooses to be one of her ladies-in-waiting. She and young Hamlet are already making eyes at one another, yet when he returns to Elsinore as a young man (MacKay) their flirtation soon escalates.
“The first obvious hurdle this film faces is figuring out how these people talk. They can’t speak the language of Shakespeare, so the dialogue is dumbed down to a generic Game of Thrones level. So when the narrative intersects with scenes from the play, lines like ‘Get thee to a nunnery’ are changed to something on the order of ‘I told you to go to that nunnery’. (I didn’t write down the precise line, by this point of the film I was clutching my head with both hands.)
“The other problem is that nearly every scene we see has almost no narrative drive. It’s well over an hour before Polonius is killed, with Ophelia essentially offstage twiddling her thumbs. Sure, she’s floating about the palace and witnessing things — but there is zero emotional investment.
“Lisa Klein’s novel (adapted by screenwriter Semi Chellas) decides it will be great fun to make substantive changes to the story. So Gertrude has a lost witch sister that makes potions (the influence is more The Dark Crystal than Macbeth), and one such brew can temporarily simulate death like in Romeo and Juliet. This leads to a, shall we say, altered version of the play’s final scenes that caused more than one snicker during the Sundance premiere.
“It must be said though that the film looks exquisite, from the costumes and props to the cinematography and camerawork. There are iridescent blue dragonflies and white peacocks and so many intricately brocade gowns. The level of craft in this film is absolutely off-the-charts. That said, I’ll tell you a quick story.
“About 20 years ago I saw a production of Macbeth in a New York City park that was defiant in its lack of scenery and props. The actors were in their street clothes. They went all-in on the acting and the words, and I tell you that it was one of the best Shakespeare performances I’ve seen in my life. I’d do anything to somehow experience a repeat of it. For all the flash and filigree in Ophelia, the only way I’ll sit through this again is to laugh at it.”