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By Ron Wells | May 27, 1997

Work of art or pretentious tripe? I’m not sure yet. After speaking with
writer Wallace Shawn, of “My Dinner With Andre” fame, I’m really not sure.
Here’s what I do know: “The Designated Mourner” is essentially an exact
reproduction of Shawn’s play complete with its London cast. Director Mike
Nichols (“The Graduate”) has the title role. The rest of the cast consists
of Miranda Richardson and David de Keyser. This is your quintensential
talking head play. Not only does it consist entirely of monologues, but no
one even stands up. Still, it’s hard not to be mesmerized by Nichols’
amazing performance.
The play’s theme is about mourning the death of a piece of culture or way of life. Just fascinating, huh? That’s not the whole work, though. Most of
the film covers how the three characters deal or don’t deal with the changing
political landscape in an unnamed country and each other. Nichol’s character
Jack, is the true survivor of the bunch, but the first time actor’s
performance refuses villification. Nichol’s performance blows away anything
from Pacino or Hoffman in the last ten years. No showy actor garbage, just
good, convincing acting.
Just don’t plan on operating any heavy machinery after the film.

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