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Vanya on 42nd Street

PG Now Playing 1h 59m Drama List
89% Tomatometer 37 Reviews 79% Audience Score 1,000+ Ratings
In this imaginative reworking of Anton Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya," filmmaker Louis Malle both distances the playwright's work and makes it more intimate. Theater director Andre Gregory and his actors, including Wallace Shawn as Vanya and Julianne Moore as Yelena, arrive at the decrepit New Amsterdam Theater in New York's Times Square, making casual conversation amongst themselves. While still wearing their street clothes, the actors then perform the play on a nearly blank makeshift stage. Read More Read Less
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Vanya on 42nd Street

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Vanya on 42nd Street

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Critics Consensus

Beautiful performances and the subtle hand of master Louis Malle make this adaptation of Chekov's Uncle Vanya an eccentric presentation of an enduring classic.

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Critics Reviews

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Owen Gleiberman Entertainment Weekly It's amazing it has taken Wallace Shawn, Andre Gregory, and director Louis Malle more than 10 years to collaborate again. It was worth the wait, though. Rated: A Jul 6, 2010 Full Review Empire Magazine The drawback, however, is that the actors chew the scenery in true stagecraft fashion, which, on film, induces regular wincing and a wish that they would hand out the valium and take it easy. Rated: 2/5 Aug 12, 2008 Full Review Todd McCarthy Variety The performances are precise, the language is alive and well spoken and the setting is striking, but Vanya on 42nd Street still suffers rather heavily from the limitations of filmed theater. Aug 12, 2008 Full Review Nicholas Bell IONCINEMA.com Louis Malle's swan-song, while perhaps not his most noteworthy work, happens to contain a priceless amount of cultural significance, a romantic document of the ultimate theatrical experience. Nov 19, 2020 Full Review James Kendrick Q Network Film Desk The alchemy of Gregory's staging and Malle's direction turn what could have been an exercise in canned theater into something very nearly sublime. Rated: 3.5/4 Jul 14, 2015 Full Review Peter Canavese Groucho Reviews A deeply moving, inspirational secular-sacred experience both for its beautiful embodiment of Chekhov's story of unmoored souls and for the beauty of the greatest collaborative art form, practiced with pure joy and for love. [Blu-ray] Rated: 4/4 Jul 3, 2015 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

View All (66) audience reviews
dave s Vanya on 42nd Street, an odd but faithful adaptation of Chekhov's play, is set in a rundown New York theater where a group of actors gather to rehearse Uncle Vanya. It's worth watching for a few reasons. It is the final directorial effort for Louis Malle, the great French director who died shortly after the film was released. The cast, featuring Wallace Shawn, Julianne Moore and Brooke Smith, all give solid performances. Above all, the play, about the complexity of family dynamics, is timeless. Out of fairness, the film is a bit wordy and may be off-putting to anyone who objects to what is essentially a filmed stage play, but it remains a fairly compelling story and should be of interest to most audiences. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 03/30/23 Full Review Audience Member This reignited my love of seeing plays. It felt like he was a contemporary of Ibsen. found our way to it after seeing the film "Drive My Car", which is based on a short story that involves a production of the play. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 01/28/23 Full Review Audience Member Mamet's adaptation of Chekov's timeless family drama is so abrasively whiny and self-pitying that it's easy to miss the brilliance of this nakedly unadorned work. Rendered in a conspicuously dilapidated theatrical setting, we sense the purity of the material in every corroded element of what feels like a stunningly raw and spontaneous performance. Wallace Shawn strikes a particularly pitiful note as the beleaguered Uncle Vanya, utilizing his peculiarly shrill and impish qualities to truly unique effect. Despite these memorable qualities, the viewer grows impatient with a screenplay that milks so much unrestrained self-loathing from the material that we can't help but grow bone weary long before the curtain mercifully comes down. Once it finally does, however, we're content to have had the opportunity to experience Chekov in such a novel and inspired way. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 02/14/23 Full Review Audience Member Vanya on 42nd Street is really just a performance of the play Uncle Vanya. It is made unique because it is presented by modern-day people in a theater rehearsing their performance of this play. Therefore, it looks current in wardrobe, but I suspect it remains pretty faithful to the classic script from the late 19th century. I was not familiar with this particular story from Chekhov before sitting down to watch the film, but that didn’t seem to be a detriment. I followed the story relatively well, mostly because of the wonderful acting of this cast. Most of them are not A-list stars of the big screen, but they clearly have some experience on the stage or with this play in particular because they all felt dialed into these performances. I guess the best compliment I can pay to all of them is that after a little while the pretense of the stage melted away for me, and I was there on the ground of that Russian estate with them. It was almost jarring when they took an act break and the camera pulled back to show us the director and spectators. It was a bit challenging at times to follow the story of Vanya on 42nd Street mostly because the dialogue is written almost like Shakespearean prose. This kind of writing, despite the fact that it’s mostly words I know, takes a great deal of concentration for me to decipher. When the film started, I was worried that I would be lulled into boredom and start to shut out what people were saying because it was too hard for me to see through to the meaning of their words. Yet, I somehow latched on when the emotions started to elevate and I could sense the feelings of each character. It all culminated in a glorious rant from Wallace Shawn that finally unveiled any remaining mystery about the story and allowed me to follow the tale to the end. Uncle Vanya is a heavy and somewhat depressing tale at the heart of it all, and I’ll admit that kind of story is tough for me to endure. While I was invested in Vanya on 42nd Street, the writing and the nature of the story kept me from loving it. However, it made me interested enough to someday seek out a stage production of this play. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 11/21/19 Full Review Audience Member Movie as a play being acted in a rundown theater in old Times Square. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 01/20/23 Full Review Audience Member With such talent thrown in the mix as Louis Malle, David Mamet, Wallace Shawn, Andre Gregory, and Julianne Moore, it's easy to see why this movie is great. Featuring excellent performances and Malle's ability to place the camera in the best place at all times, Vanya on 42nd Street is worth a viewing. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/29/23 Full Review Read all reviews
Vanya on 42nd Street

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Movie Info

Synopsis In this imaginative reworking of Anton Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya," filmmaker Louis Malle both distances the playwright's work and makes it more intimate. Theater director Andre Gregory and his actors, including Wallace Shawn as Vanya and Julianne Moore as Yelena, arrive at the decrepit New Amsterdam Theater in New York's Times Square, making casual conversation amongst themselves. While still wearing their street clothes, the actors then perform the play on a nearly blank makeshift stage.
Director
Louis Malle
Producer
Fred Berner
Screenwriter
Andre Gregory
Production Co
Channel Four Films, The Vanya Company, Mayfair Entertainment
Rating
PG
Genre
Drama
Original Language
English
Release Date (Theaters)
Sep 13, 1994, Original
Rerelease Date (Theaters)
Oct 19, 1994
Release Date (Streaming)
Apr 16, 2012
Box Office (Gross USA)
$501.5K
Runtime
1h 59m
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