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Susan Sarandon, John Cassavetes, Gena Rowland, and Molly Ringwald star in a modernized version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. A partial list of the actors, their movie roles, and the corresponding role in Shakespeare’s comedy is over there on the left.

Actor Film Role Shakespeare Character
John Cassavetes Phillip Dimitrius Prospero
Gena Rowlands Antonia Dimitrius NA
Susan Sarandon Aretha Tomalin Ariel
Vittorio Gassman Alonzo Alonzo
Raul Julia Kalibanos Caliban
Molly Ringwald Miranda Dimitrius Miranda
Sam Robards Freddy Ferdinand
Paul Stewart Phillip's Father NA
Jackie Gayle Trinc Trinculo
Anthony Holland Sebastian Sebastian
Jerry Hardin Harry Gondorf NA
Phillip Dimitrius, unlike Prospero, is not a magician, at least not in the beginning. He is an architect who is dissatisfied with his life, and with his boss, Alonzo. Antonia, Phillip’s/Prospero’s wife is not a character in Shakespeare’s play, but is portrayed by Gena Rowlands, the real life wife of John Cassavetes. As in the play Miranda is a naive teenaged girl who falls in love with the son of her father’s enemy.

Unlike Shakespeare’s play, which is centered firmly in the present, the film moves back and forth in time. Each of the major characters, Phillip/Prospero, Antonia, Aretha/Ariel, and Miranda has a flashback that should serve to give some emotional and narrative context to the situation on the island, but which seems to serve primarily to pad out the film.

A major difficulty with the film is that in using Shakespeare’s plot as a framework for his film Paul Mazursky has to compete not only with Shakespeare’s plot, but also with his language. Here the film falls flat. The language is not poetic, nor is there any attempt at an elevated style. When that is added to bad storytelling, a plot that is not involving, and characters who are not attractive, you have a disaster.

Overall, if you are willing to spend over two hours with a Shakespeare knockoff, instead of the original, you might get something out of it, but whether it’s worth the effort is debatable.