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October 16, 1995 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-10-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

R; {Itd iq J 1 Elizabeth Alexander reading
Poet Elizabeth Alexander is the latest writer in U-M's Visiting Writer
Series. Author of "The Venus Hottentot," Alexander reads today at 4
p.m. in the Rackham Amphitheatre. The event is free; for more
information, call 764-6296. Page BA
October 16, 19t
ette doesn't mae the gmde
Additional subplots, heavy symbolism muddle movie r

By Jennifer Petlinski
Daily Arts Writer
"Freely adapted from the novel by
Nathaniel Hawthorne." As these
words flash on the screen, even be-
fore "The.Scarlet Letter" begins, the
audience just knows that they are in
for a real treat. Or, if anything else,
the film is a lesson from director
Roland Joffe on how to destroy the
meaning and any fond memories we
might have of that particular require-
ment for high school English.
At the beginning of the movie we
are introduced to strong-minded and
beautiful Hester Prynne (Demi
Moore), who sails to the New World

in hope of beginning a life in New
England. She arrives there to prepare
her home for husband Roger (Robert
Duvall) who will not join her until
later. From the start, she is the talk of
the Puritan village: After all, what
kind of woman would come to the
New World without knowing when to
expect her husband?
As it turns out, Hester isn't the talk
of the town for nothing. She is torn
between her passion for another man
- Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale
(Gary Oldman) - and her vows of
marriage. After receiving word of her
husband's death, Hester has an affair
with the priest.
Months later, however, her prob-
lems erupt. Hester's husband - who
is actually still alive-comes to town
(so much for the dead theory). At the
same time, the whole town finds out
that Hester is pregnant. Although the
townspeople do not know that their
own reverend is the father, they pub-
licly condemn Hester at the scaffold
in the center of town. For the rest of
her days, she must wear a scarlet let-
ter on her chest to remind her of the
shame she has caused herself and the
rest of the town.
This is the heart of Hawthorne's
novel: One woman's shame and the
single reminder of two lovers' sins. It
is about the symbolism of that red 'A'
branded upon Hester - why it was
put there, what it stands for and the
consequences it brings.
But the movie features many scenes

The Scarlet
Directed by Roland
Joffd; with Demi Moore
and Gary Oldman
At Ann Arbor 1&2 and Showcase
that Hawthorne's novel is not about:
Reverend Dimmesdale swimming na-
ked in a lake, Hester taking a bath and
thinking about him swimming in the
lake, one hour of sexual tension be-
tweentwodestinedlovers, asuper-long
sex scene, maybe one hour of guilt and
some cheesy happy ending. "Freely
adapted" is the key phrase here.
To make the movie a hit in the box
office, director Joffe ("The Killing
Fields") unfortunately felt that he
needed to add some spice to the story
line. In place of the original point are
two action-oriented subplots about
witchcraft and the Puritans' relation-
ship with Native Americans.
Also incorporated into the movie is
narrator Pearl. Hester and
Dimmesdale's daughter and product
of sin. A grown Pearl tells her par-
ents' story, occasionally hinting at
some symbolism from the novel. And
in case anyone missed the meaning of
her statements, there's just a little
more symbolism thrown in: The bright
red tropical bird (the kind that

Robert Duvall and Demi Moore get to wear cool costumes and ham It up In "The Scarlet Letter."

wouldn't be anywhere near New En-
eland). Pearl's red dress and other
scarlet objects. Pretty deep, huh?
Unfortunately, Demi Moore can't
even compensate for this cheapening
of a classic novel. When she's not
talking, the audience can sense her
emotions: Anguish and passion. But
that's all ruined when she opens her
mouth. Sadly enough, Demi Moore

should really lose the English accent.
Both Gary Oldman and Robert
Duvall make parts ofthe movie worth-
while by perfectly creating the true
natures of their characters. Oldman is
a wonderful Dimmesdale; we feel for
him because his shame burns beneath
the surface. In contrast, Duvall haunts
us with his portrayal of an evil hus-
band out for some serious revenge.

But, as we can see from this movi
two good actors can only do so moe
In the end, the audience is left wil
a surface value glimpse of a story th
was meant to be much more. How e
we really take "The Scarlet Letter
seriously when the actual letter lool
like a cross between something on
Star Search dance team costume and
varsity letter?

filled with
By Kristin Bartus
For the Daily
So you're looking for Jeff Daniels,
two dumb guys, and more farting jokes
than you have heard since elementary
school. No, itisnot the sequelto"Dumb
and Dumber," but rather "Escanaba in
da Moonlight," the latest comedy by
Jeff Daniels being performed at his
own Purple Rose Theater through No-
vember 19.
While the physical and potty humor
rival "Dumb and Dumber,""Escanaba"
proves to be a more worthwhile come-
dic effort for Daniels and the cast and
crew. Although this adventure in
Michigan's Upper Peninsula fails as
the most tightly written and acted piece
of the year, it spawns many comedic
moments and a lighthearted sense of
Soady family patriarch Albert (Dai
Parker-Gwilliam) narrates the story
from the present at the Soady family
deer campjustnorthofEscanaba, Mich.
The majority of the play, however,
flashes back to the eve of hunting sea-
son opening day 1989. Hunting is a
sacred tradition in the Soady family
going back 100 years. Problems arise

The Washington D.C. quintet Blue Miracle will be bringing their southern fried
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r.scanaoa" affecuonately pokes run at mte upper reninsula's nuntng culture.

when Albert's slightly dim-witted sons

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Reuben (John Seibert) and Remnar (Jo-
seph Albright) arrive for the annual
hunting holiday.
Olderbrother Reuben,knownthrough-
out the U.P. as "The Buckless Yooper,"
will become the oldest Soady to have
never bagged a buck if he does not kill a
deer this year. In a cabin full of hunting
superstitions and traditions, the Soady
menbegintosuspectthat Reubeniscursed.
Family friend Jimmer Neganamee
(Wayne David Parker), who incidentally
had previously been abducted by aliens

andgarbleshis wordstothepointofbeing
completely incoherent, joins the Soady
men. Signs of Reuben's cursed nature
continue as they traditionally drink their
way through cases of beer and mysteri-
ously sappy homemade whiskey. They
agree to try to improve Reuben's luck via
remedies provided by his Native Ameri-
can wife, Wolf Moon Dance (Jennifer
Hunter). They drink a special brew which
includes the left testicle of a full grown
moose andsprinklethemselves with"por-
cupine piss."
Throughoutthe play, we see flashes of
bright light outside the cabin and hear
voices whispering, kee-sa-kee. Eventu-
ally, after a Department of Natural Re-
only to sing way too much of the Judy
Collins song"BothSidesNow"andcrash
on the couch for the night, a great light

Escanaba in
da Moonlight
The Purple Rose Theater
(137 Park St., Chelsea)
Through November 19
Tickets: $20-$15. Call (313) 475-
hypnotizes Reuben.Atalking deer(among
the hundreds surrouding the porcupine
piss-infested cabin) arrives atthe door as
the spirit of Great-Grandfather Soady,
readytobe shotby Reuben. Ashe bags his
buck, Wolf Moon Dance arrives in full
Pocohontas-style gear and says kee-sa-
kee, to which Reuben responds, "I love
you too." (Don't forget your box of Ritz
crackers to go with this cheese).
This inane plot provides acceptably
slapstick humor, but some elements of
"Escanaba" require polishing. Jimmer's
garbled speech constantly requirestrans-
lation, which can become tedious and
annoying. The characters' excessive
Yooper accents often sound more like a
visiting Irishman. Albright's Remnar,
ing more like the actors in the "Saturday
Night Live" skit "Da Bears." A
somewhatoverdone,butthey didcomple-

ment the play's physical humor (wel
directed by Guy Sanville) nicely. Th
actors perform best during these phys
cally comedic parts of the play. In ger
eral,though,theacting appearsabitforce
and Parker-Gwilliam tended to stumbl
over some lines. It was only the openin
weekend, however, and the acting im
proved as the play continued.
The most humorous aspect of the pla:
came through Daniel's numerous one
liners (most often referring to the U.P.
Referring to the opening day of huntin,
season, "It's like Christmas with guns.'
The scenery and costumes also cre
ated a thoroughly woodsy mood f
"Escanaba." The log cabin is thrust i
the center of the audience and house
all the goods from wood-burning stov
to the deer heads hanging above. A
the guys sported well-worn huntin
flannels. Especially fun was Remnar'
duct-taped flannel he wore supersti
tiously every hunting season since h
was nine years uld. The backgroun
sound of crickets and other outdoc
sounds also greatly contributed to cre
ating a hunting camp atmosphere.
"Escanaba," while slightly "rougt
ing it" in writing and acting, still take
an amusing excursion to the huntin
world of the U.P. Itis no "Dumb an
Dumber," but it does offer an appea
ing local flavor other than pasties -


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L expires: November 3, 1995


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Fall 1995
Memberships & Organizations Helpful to a Psychology Major
Tuesday, October 17 7:30-9:30 pm Ostafin Room*, West Quad
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