Illuminata

A sloppy, self-indulgent valentine to the theater, delivered with all the grace of a letter-bomb by actor-turned-director John Turturro. In turn-of-the-century NYC, playwright Tuccio (Turturro) is desperate to get his latest opus, Illuminata, mounted by the theater company run by his actress girlfriend Rachel (Katherine Borowitz). But the play — an...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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A sloppy, self-indulgent valentine to the theater, delivered with all the grace of a letter-bomb by actor-turned-director John Turturro. In turn-of-the-century NYC, playwright Tuccio (Turturro) is desperate to get his latest opus, Illuminata, mounted by the

theater company run by his actress girlfriend Rachel (Katherine Borowitz). But the play — an intense profile of an adulterous affair performed in spare, modernist style — doesn't have a proper ending, and theater owners Astergourd and Pallenchio (Beverly D'Angelo, Donal McCann) would

rather do A Doll's House. After the star of the company's latest production collapses onstage, Tuccio seizes the moment and announces a preview of Illuminata in its place. The performance is a disaster, but galvanizes each of the key players. Rachel pleads her husband's case with the

owners; actor Marco (Bill Irwin) half-heartedly allows himself to be wooed by a lecherous but influential critic (snidely modeled on Oscar Wilde and played with ghoulish relish by Christopher Walken); and Tuccio accepts a seductive invitation from aging diva Celimene (Susan Sarandon). Yes, it's a

film about the theater, but it's stagy in the worst possible sense: It's hard to tell when characters are running lines and when they're speaking actual dialogue. The inability to distinguish between drama and real life is no doubt part of Turturro and cowriter Brandon Coe's point ("It's a slender

curtain between theater and life," observes Celimene). But it's an annoying contrivance, and the script sounds as if it were written solely to be quoted. Most disagreeable of all is the charmless Tuccio: He hisses the name of Ibsen as if it were anathema, while nothing about Illuminata

justifies his self-important contempt. The film's only saving graces are its handsome production design and the remarkable collection of actors whose hard work provide the film with a few moments of pleasure.

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: R
  • Review: A sloppy, self-indulgent valentine to the theater, delivered with all the grace of a letter-bomb by actor-turned-director John Turturro. In turn-of-the-century NYC, playwright Tuccio (Turturro) is desperate to get his latest opus, Illuminata, mounted by th… (more)

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