Mourning Becomes Electra is long, dense, formal, demanding, and uncomfortably furious in its emotions, as is the play. It is inconsistently effective, and you can spot plenty of room for Nichols to have shaped up his adaptation a little—Rosalind Russell, in particular, is a problem, and murkier lighting and a location shoot would have helped. Still, there's an integrity and a conviction to this piece which I appreciated.
Elated to see a play that survived to the screen with its essential character intact, I also gave the DVD of Closer another spin, and the film has only improved in my mind from when I saw it theatrically last December. Spiky, unpredictable, and daringly histrionic, this is a film that really puts itself out there, demanding our patience and our interest with a series of break-ups and betrayals but refusing to divulge any of the connective tisssue of romance or commitment that intercedes between all the backstabs and crying jags. Closer is not a great play but it's a very good one, and the impeccable cinematography and art direction—crucial in giving the film the elegant sheen it needs as counterpoint to all the brutality—transition perfectly onto smaller screens. Jude Law and especially Natalie Portman both get better on second look, and Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, who already stunned in the theater, reveal new sides of their performances. Away from the hype, the breathlessness of awards season, the desperation with which Sony was coveting a Best Picture nod, I am hpoing Closer is finding more converts on DVD. I am also hoping that more good, punchy, distinctive plays will make the move into cinema without sacrificing what's distinctive about them. (To whomever out there has inevitably optioned Doubt, I'm speaking to you.)