Magazine article Metro Magazine

Claustrophobic Reckonings in Tape

Magazine article Metro Magazine

Claustrophobic Reckonings in Tape

Article excerpt

Tape, director Richard Linklater's latest release, is not a standard or comfortable movie experience, but Linklater has established this as his forte. Waking Life (2001) was a refreshingly different and remarkable cinematic experience, but Linklater is probably best known for Dazed and Confused (1993), Watching Tape is analogous to walking into the most unpleasant of situations, a venture into a nondescript grimy hotel room that is occupied by cantankerous cohorts between whom tensions are in overdrive, It would be sweet relief to walk out but intrigue (or voyeurism) has been piqued and wins over. This, coupled with pacy, compelling dialogue, suggests that there is something to be learned from the discomfort.

Based on the stage play by Stephen Belber, Tape makes for an intimate affair. Vince (Ethan Hawke) is a bit of a deadbeat, at least when it comes to his job and lifestyle description--he makes grand claims to be a volunteer fireman, but his day job comprises petty drug-dealing, drug and alcohol consumption, and 'maybe' a little firefighting on the side. He is clearly a man with little direction or ambition and he dons his vices as proudly as the war medals of a veteran. Vince waits in agitation for his old high school friend Jon (Robert Sean Leonard) to arrive and once they meet the greetings are a mix of teeny-cum-macho bravado and cagey awkwardness.

Jon is in town to screen his directorial debut at the local film festival (the film is set in Lansing, Michigan) and he is seemingly the picture of control and success (at least he likes to wear US$200 shoes). He is, after all, about to emerge as an important film talent; he's out there trying to understand the social condition via film. Such striking differences between the men initially appear to be the source of their antagonism, but Vince's mention of their former high school mate, Amy (Uma Thurman), reveals otherwise. The discord ante is upped and the men enter into a rocky and aimless discussion about what really happened the night Amy and Jon got together.

Amy was Vince's high school girlfriend until Jon 'stole' her away from him and, ten years later, the resentment is yet to relent. Vince has not forgotten the betrayal and, Jon reminds him, it has been discussed many a time. On this occasion, however, Vince is armed with information that Jon would rather forget (the film fails to reveal how Vince actually came across it). After much frantic and circular argument, Vince successfully bullies Jon into confessing that he and Amy did not just 'get together', but that he raped her.

Unbeknownst to Jon, Vince has been recording the conversation--a revelation which serves to throw the tension between them into full throttle. Jon becomes increasingly perplexed as Vince's motives appear unclear: revenge, blackmail, the noble search for truth, or jealousy morphed into irrational psychological games.

The men wrangle to make sense of each other and panic mounts as Vince announces that he has arranged for Amy, who works locally as the Assistant District Attorney, to meet him at the hotel room. When Amy arrives, she is clearly aware that she has entered into a rather unsavoury situation. Once the reason for her being there is revealed, she promptly denies that a rape ever took place--hence the confusion begins. Each character is run through the proverbial ringer of shame, self-confrontation and exposure. The three who once were friends realize that their relationships were formed in the shaky, confusing time of adolescence, and ten years later they are forced, as 'adults', to take responsibility for their past transgressions.

The actors know their stuff, and they needed to. …

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