Tape (2001): Low Budget Film by Richard Linklater Packs High Budget Punch
Then when I viewed Before Sunrise I not only was cemented as a fan, but gained great respect for the awesome way that he directed dialog. In Tape, he has shown the unlimited possibilities, even if you are limited in materials. Tape is a low budget movie that takes place completely in a motel room. But holds the power of a big budget film, both cinematically and creatively.
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This film is based on a 1-act play, with only 3 characters. Tape begun as an off-off-Broadway play. All taking place in Access Theater's 5th floor walkup black box. It was written by playwright Stephen Belber. Both the play and film, take place entirely in Room 19 of a shabby motel in Lansing, Michigan. It was rented by Vince, a hot head, outgoing party animal who is visited by his high school friend Jon, who is a documentary filmmaker.
The story is basically these two characters, passing time by reminiscing about the good old days. However things take a sharp turn when Vince and Jon, become caught up in an argument that leads into reliving the past and confronting past emotions and feelings. All involving an old girlfriend Amy, who later shows up and creates a world of trouble for both of these fellows.
Like almost all of Richard Linklater's films, Tape displays a firm understanding for dialog. I love films that are predominantly focused on the words spoken. And this one, is one, that just hits a home run. It is a beautiful character study, that holds all its strength, in how it shows human emotions. Physical language is used beautifully and becomes another character in the room. And it can't be easy to do, when the only scenery you have is a motel room. But in this film, the claustrophobic feel and the limits are actually its strongest point.
The camera work and direction, gives the experience a raw emotional feel, that is hard to ignore after you have ended the viewing. The greatness comes from its script. The conversations are realistic and interesting. They poke at the flaws in peoples personalities and also focus on the evolution of those flaws. How certain aspects are altered by time, but most certainly still remain cemented in you.
The acting was critical, because it is only a tree party affair. Even as a small cast, our actors gave stellar performances that made you forget time and place.
Ethan Hawke could not have been more radiant as the ultimate A-hole, jerk that is his character Vince. Showing his immaturity greatly in physical language and in a bountiful amount of sarcastic spew. Robert Sean Leonard (who at the moment plays a doctor on "House M.D.") gives us a taste of the opposite. He displays his character Jon Salter, as someone who was much like vince, but is searching to mature as he finds himself older.
Uma I loved because she comes in at the conclusion and firmly gives us an ending. As Amy Randall, she gives us a mature lady that is sexy and super serious. Her character has a sort of power over the ending, and Lady Thurman sure plays that part perfectly.
In the end, like in all of Richard Linklaters movies.. what you must admire is his splendid display of dialog. Ever since "Slackers" his debut film (Which was also was predominantly driven by dialog) he has shown a growth to how he uses words on screen. Here in "Tape", we find that he can give us a movie with a story, interesting characters, and all that you would want in a movie.. all tied together by splendid words.