Vanya on 42nd Street

Vanya on 42nd Street ★★★★


[Originally written on my blog.]

When the Skandies crew voted for Best Performance of the '90s (gender-neutral) a dozen years ago, Julianne Moore placed 4th...for Safe, in which she's indeed outstanding. But I cast my own vote for her stunningly unconventional interpretation of Yelena here, which seems every bit as miraculous and ineffable to me now—somehow, she finds a deeper truth in every line by playing radically against whatever emotion the words seem to suggest. And Brooke Smith, I now realize, is nearly as good, in a very tricky role. Surprised to rediscover how cinematic Malle's direction is, too, given the ultra-theatrical conceit. But Vanya is not in Wallace Shawn's extremely limited range as an actor. He shouldn't come across as merely peevish.