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Tape (2001)

Cast: Ethan Hawke, Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, more...
Director: Richard Linklater, Richard Linklater
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Lions Gate
Genre: Drama, Independent
Running Time: 86 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
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In the same year that filmmaker Richard Linklater explored the possibilities of image manipulation in digital filmmaking with Waking Life, he also embraced the new medium's potential for creating intimate character portraits under confined circumstances with this feature, based on the play by Stephen Belber. Johnny (Robert Sean Leonard) is a 30-year-old filmmaker who is enjoying a recent run of success and has returned to his old hometown of Lansing, MI, to show his latest project at a film festival. While in town, Johnny pays a visit to Vince (Ethan Hawke), an old friend from high school who is staying in a nearby hotel. Vince has never had a knack for responsibility and these days scrapes together a living as a low-level drug dealer. Johnny and Vince discuss their lives, with Johnny more than a bit judgmental about Vince's current situation, when the conversation turns to Amy (Uma Thurman), a girl who was Vince's girlfriend through much of high school and who Johnny dated for a brief spell afterward. Johnny confesses that he hasn't thought about Amy in ages, but Vince informs him that she's living nearby, then begins firing a series of increasingly pointed questions at him about his relationship with Amy, concluding with the shocking accusation that Johnny once raped Amy at a party. Like Waking Life, Tape was entirely shot using digital video equipment, and director Linklater remained true to the story's origins as a stage play, using only three actors and one set for the entire film. Both Tape and Waking Life premiered at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

momento vs 24 days by JiQua May 24, 2005 - 10:49 PM PDT
1 out of 2 members found this review helpful
Intense as we wonder where the script is leading.
Held hostage by one's actions and sense of
right and wrong. Almost playfully comical all
actors get two thumbs up.

When Three's a Crowd by jaydead January 11, 2003 - 6:06 PM PST
15 out of 15 members found this review helpful
Describing the plot of Tape is a futile endeavor because doing it justice would entail repeating nearly every line of dialogue. Such is the fate of a film in which the telling of the story is more interesting than the story itself. Tape's director, Richard Linklater is no stranger to putting characterization before plot--1991's breakout indie Slacker had no plot (unless you count the conspiracy theories). However, unlike John Waters--whose move from using local Baltimorians to Hollywood "it" actors was somewhat disasterous, Linklater transitions from Austin townies to Oscar nominees with finesse.

Of course this isn't Linklater's first time working with A-list talent; it's just his best. Despite memorable performances by Parker Posey, both Dazed & Confused and Suburbia felt sloppy and unimpressive. Tape gets back to the basics--literally--with a cast of three, a claustrophobic little motel room location, and no way out.

Vince and Johnny (Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard, respectively) are old friends reuniting in Lansing, Michigan. Vince is an intoxicated, hyperactive volunteer fireman-child who moonlights as a low-level drug dealer. Johnny, on the other hand, has grown up and is in town to debut his new film at the local festival. As Vince and Johnny reminisce about the past ten years, two significant things happen: Vince gets increasingly high, and conversation turns to an unresolved issue regarding an ex-girlfriend in common.

The issue quickly escalates from semantics to accusations. Vince squeezes a "confession" out of Johnny, then reveals that he's been taping the entire conversation. This propels us into the third act, in which the ex-girlfriend, Amy (Uma Thurman) arrives on the scene.

Hawke, Leonard, and Thurman have a chemistry between them that is both believable and engrossing. The actors' familiarity with each other off-screen (Hawke and Leonard date back to Dead Poet's Society, and Hawke is married to Thurman) translates to excellent on-screen interactions. Hawke particularly deserves praise for his good drug-acting, something that 9 our of 10 actors continue to get wrong film after film.

Stephen Belber's script is spot-on, yet leaves room for interpretation. Although the film pivots around the details of the past, it's also an exercise in how three different people can have entirely different recollections of a single event. Tape is proof that great dialogue, strong acting, and a shoestring budget can hold their own among the Hollywood machine films anyday.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.79)
110 Votes
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