Rosenbros and Guildendude
To blog or not to blog? That was the question. I’ve been stewing all week about whether or not I should review Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Undead for the blog. The problem is that while the movie hits all the criteria for a “meh” film, it’s also strangely awesome. I mean, it’s stupid and yet not stupid. I didn’t know what to do!!! I wonder if this is how Prince Hamlet felt. Maybe he saw the same movie and this led to all his ravings and crazy thinking. No idea.
So, after several days of crazy talk (mostly to myself) I decided to add the movie to the blog if for no other reason than to bring it to your attention. You can view this review as either a warning or a recommendation. You make the call! It’s also on the blog because it’s Halloween, and this here’s a vampire movie.
I knew right from the beginning that Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Undead was going to be different. From the trailer, I knew this was a about an adaptation of Hamlet and that there were vampires in it. I knew this would be a comedy. I knew that Jake Hoffman (son of Dustin) would be in it. But I didn’t know that was only the tip of the iceberg. Allow me to set the stage:
R&G opens with the following little info/disclaimer: “Since the 1600s there have been numerous versions of Shakepeare’s Hamlet adapted to portray vampires…..This is one of them.” Quoi?
R&G follows the pathetic life of Julian (played by Jake Hoffman). Julian lives in an apartment, and when I say apartment, I mean one bedroom that’s always completely trashed—kind of like Julian’s life these days. He’s an unemployed director and seems to be stuck in a kind of revolving bender of one night stands. The trashed apartment is actually a room that’s located in Julian’s father’s medical practice. I never get the name of his father, so I’ll refer to him as Dr. Dad.
Dr. Dad’s world is kind of odd to me. First of all, his son lives in his office, which is just weird. Second, it would appear that Dr. Dad really has just one patient. He’s an Indian gent (and determined hypochondriac) with the groovy name of Hugo Pepper. Hugo and Dr. Dad seem like they fell out of a Wes Anderson movie and landed in this one. I love them! [Special Note: I did some research. Waris Ahluwalia (who plays Hugo) has actually been in two Wed Anderson films! He was in The Life Aquatic and The Darjeeling Limited. Small world….]
Anyways, Dr. Dad is tired of his son lazing about and hands him the flyer that requests a director for a stage production of Hamlet. So, Julian heads over to the theater to see what’s what. Pretty much from this point on, the movie just got loony. I couldn’t decide if it was stupid or smartly funny or both or what. See? I’m still so undecided on this! Okay, I’ll go on.
At the theater, Julian meets Theo Horace (played by John Ventimiglia) who is the writer of this stag adaptation. A few words about Theo… He’s a vampire. You can totally tell because, well, he’s a vampire. He even bites a chick in the introduction I didn’t bother to describe for you. He is very pale and emo-ish but minus the eyeliner. He vamps about the place, and keeps popping up behind people throughout scenes in a creepy horror movie manner. Again, it’s silly, but smart.
Julian gets the job and even suggests a friend of his for the role of Hamlet. Immediately, Theo asks the usual job interview questions such as does this friend have any blood viruses or does he participate in any intravenous drug usage. You know, the usual. Theo also explains that his adaptation of the play will be with vampires, and that it will be called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead.
The role of Hamlet goes to Vince who is played by Kris Lemche who played the recurring character of Hillinger on La Femme Nikita. I absolutely love that show. Okay, back to the movie.
So while all this is going on, we also meet Anna who is Julian’s ex-girlfriend. Anna is now dating some mover/shaker businessman played by none other than Ralph Macchio!!!!! His name is Bobby, and he’s a hot-tempered, nouveau riche type who acts like he’s in the mafia. Julian seems to still be at Anna’s beck and call, and is terrified of Bobby. He and Vince pretend to be a gay couple whenever Bobby is around. This really has no point, other than it’s just funny. Oh, and Anna gets the role of Ophelia.
Onward to rehearsals! The important role of Rosencrantz is given to Carlo a sort of hispanic valley dude moron. He keeps trying to change lines and character names. For example, he thinks the play should be called Rosenbros and Guildendude. Guildenstern is played by some guy who reminds me a little of Jon Lovtiz’s SNL character, “Master Thespian.” He keeps trying to give direction and do his lines differently. Acting!!!
Oh…..and Theo has CHANGED the whole play around. Basically, [deep breath] Horatio is a vampire. He makes Hamlet one too and they are besties from that point on. For kicks, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are vampires too! But when Horatio tries to turn Ophelia, she declines and kills herself. Enraged, Hamlet tries to kill Horatio, but finds he cannot. He learns that if he is able to drink from the Holy Grail (yes, you read that right) that he can save his soul and maybe defeat Horatio. So now it’s a race for the Grail. Did you get all that? Cause that’s the play. It’s also the movie….
As Julian says “This play is really confusing,” and I agree But first, allow me to give you some samples of Theo’s wonderful writing:
[Horatio shoots an arrow. It hits a target]
Hamlet: Well aimed Horatio. Your arrows have outrageous fortune.
[Hamlet shoots arrow and misses]
Hamlet: You may be good with arrows and bows. Myself, I am good with ribbons and bows. Who designed your clothing? That outfit just screams something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Is that a Roman toga? It’s got to-go!”
Right, so if you recall, Theo is an actual vampire pretending to be a playwright. Here’s the interesting point. Theo is in real life, Horatio, and he’s been feuding with the real Hamlet all these years. The point of doing the play is to draw Hamlet out into the open. Oh, and every time Theo/Horatio puts on a production of his play, he turns the entire cast into vampires.
We learn all this from a secret society known as Rosencrushens and Goldenstone. They are also after the Grail, and have been keeping an eye on Hamlet and Horatio through all of time. Their token employee is master of disguise, Charlotte. She appears all throughout the movie as a homeless person, as a doctor, a man, etc. She’s cool.
So during all these rehearsals, Vince gets bitten by one of Theo’s vampire minions. He’s killed and it takes him a long time to turn. Meanwhile, the minions (while under Theo’s tuterlage) turn the rest of the cast too. The need for all the vampire turning makes little sense to me and is kind of lame. It also feels like filler.
Here’s whats not filler: At some point in the movie, a character is killed. There are two detectives investigating the murder, and one of them is Jeremy Sisto. What’s funny about the first scene with the detectives, is that is was most likely modeled after the gravedigger scene from the actual Hamlet. Sisto’s detective is having a philosophical discussion with his partner. The scene even ends with Sisto asking for the partner to bring him a beverage–just like the gravedigger requests of his assistant. Now that’s just smart.
Anywho, that’s all of the plot I’ll go into for this review. I don’t want to spoil the movie in case anyone feels like watching it. I hope you do. It hits on several humor levels, and is just really hard to describe. Some bits of the movie were really fun and well-played, but some of the plot when looking at it as a framework, makes zero sense. Theo’s play which mimics character exposition is ludicrous. I think if I watched this movie again, I’d pair it with a viewing of Hamlet 2 which was just as loony but also really enjoyable.
Fun Details of Note
The Opening credits to the movie feature drawings of skullheads of the cast. It’s very macabre, kind of humorous and set the perfect tone for the film. Also, Sean Lennon did the music. It was really waltzy and felt a little Elfmanesque.
Each chapter of the film was introduced with a heading involving the title of a famous play or book. These included:
- “Job Interview with a Vampire
- “As I Lay Undrying”
- And my absolute favorite “Breakfast is Tiffany” Hee hee