Noises Off (film)
Original poster drawn by Al Hirschfeld
|Directed by||Peter Bogdanovich|
|Produced by||Frank Marshall|
|Screenplay by||Marty Kaplan|
|Based on||Noises Off
by Michael Frayn
|Music by||Roy Budd|
|Edited by||Lisa Day|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
Also featured is the final performance of Denholm Elliott, who died that same year.
The film follows the concept of a play within a play, in this case a dreadful farce called Nothing On — the type of production in which many doors continually open and shut. The setting has been transplanted from English provincial theatre to Des Moines, Iowa, where a second-rate theatrical troupe is preparing to perform the Broadway-bound play under the direction of Lloyd Fellowes.
Among the cast members of Nothing On are fading star Dotty Otley, scatter-brained Garry Lejuene, insecure matinee heartthrob Frederick Dallas, myopic leading lady Brooke Ashton, second female lead Belinda Blair, and alcoholic character actor Selsdon Mawbray. Frantically working behind the scenes are Tim Allgood and Poppy Taylor.
The film opens with the final dress rehearsal before opening night, with the cast still forgetting lines, missing cues, and mishandling props. Lloyd is reduced to cajoling, yelling at, and pleading with them to get things right. Complicating matters are the personal problems and backstage relationships that have fostered jealousy and petty squabbling and intruded upon any professionalism this motley crew can muster.
As the company works its way to New York City, the eccentricities of the cast come to the fore and the performances on the road dissolve into chaos on and backstage.
- Michael Caine as Lloyd Fellowes
- Carol Burnett as Dotty Otley / Mrs. Clackett
- Denholm Elliott as Selsdon Mowbray / The Burglar
- John Ritter as Garry Lejeune / Roger Tramplemain
- Christopher Reeve as Frederick Dallas / Phillip Brent
- Nicollette Sheridan as Brooke Ashton / Vicki
- Marilu Henner as Belinda Blair / Flavia Brent
- Julie Hagerty as Poppy Taylor
- Mark Linn-Baker as Tim Allgood
The film received mixed reviews from critics. In his review in the New York Times, Vincent Canby noted, "There are a number of hefty laughs scattered throughout . . . this woozy film adaptation" and added, "Noises Off is a practically perfect stage piece, constructed with such delicacy that any opportunistic adjustment can destroy it, which is what happens here . . . It may not even be Mr. Bogdanovich's fault. He hasn't opened up the play in any foolish way. There are even times when the camera successfully catches the tempo of the lunatic action without being overwhelmed by it. Yet too often the action and the dialogue are so fuzzily understood that the laughs are lost. The film's problem is more basic: the attempt to Americanize a fine English farce about provincial seediness. It can't be done."
In The New Yorker, Michael Sragow said, "Most of the time, Bogdanovich sticks to Frayn's gleefully proscenium-bound play without making it work for the movies. The result is roughly equivalent to the pan and scan TV version of a wide-screen spectacle. Bogdanovich has cast actors you want to see . . . in a production that grows increasingly impossible to watch."
In his review of the video release, Lawrence O'Toole of Entertainment Weekly said, "Nothing is as murderous on a farce as film. Its mechanics can work beautifully from the distance of the stage . . . but the closeness of the home screen points up every flaw in Peter Bogdanovich's futile adaptation: anorectic visuals, bloated acting, broad timing, and often dull direction. The cast members . . . are all game, but it's exhausting watching actors try so hard."
Channel 4 notes, "Frayn's frenetic farce was always going to be a difficult act to pull off on the big screen, but Bogdanovich and an enthusiastic cast do their damnedest to sustain the mayhem and the momentum. Those who remember the original theatrical hit are bound to be disappointed by the lack of immediacy and the occasional sense of artifice, but this is perfectly serviceable."
Noises Off holds a 57% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
- Canby, Vincent (March 20, 1992). "New York Times review". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 19, 2011.
- Kempley, Rita (March 20, 1992). "Washington Post review". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
- The New Yorker review
- Entertainment Weekly review
- Time Out London review
- Channel 4 review
- Siskel & Ebert. "Review: Noises Off". At the Movies. Disney. Retrieved 2009-06-15.[dead link]