The Designated Mourner

Tucson Weekly

DIRECTED BY: David Hare

REVIEWED: 08-25-97

Actor Wallace Shawn wrote this strange, funny movie (based on his play) about a sort of alternate future where the appreciation for literature--indeed, for all nuance, irony and shades of meaning--has been purged by politically sanctioned instant gratification. Despite the fact that the film is very theatrical--the characters face the camera and are sitting on a stage the whole time--the screenplay itself is such a wonderfully nuanced one, full of irony and ambiguity, that The Designated Mourner takes on a surprising dynamism. Mike Nichols (better known as the director of The Graduate and The Birdcage, among others) is terrific as Jack, a man stuck between two realms of pleasure--the highbrow and the lowbrow, as he refers to them. Really though, it's the lowbrow he prefers. Miranda Richardson is prissy and moving as Judy, the last of the pretentious intellectuals. Shawn's original, off-beat screenplay is less of a cautionary, sci-fi tale than a parable about conflict between intellectual elitism and the understanding, dignity and fellowship that book learning seems to promise.

--Richter

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