Tape (2001)
star Printer-Friendly version
Review Date: April 26, 2002
Director: Richard Linklater
Writer: Stephen Belber
Producers: Alexis Alexanian, Anne McBay
Ethan Hawke
Robert Sean Leonard
Uma Thurman
A couple of old high school buddies get together in a motel room for some drinks and nostalgia. As it turns out, one of the dudes is set to surreptitiously coerce the other into divulging details of an apparent rape which he committed on his ex-girlfriend back in high school. As the night progresses, tensions run high, a recording tape makes an appearance and the girl in question (the rapee) also joins in on the conversation. Deep insight ensues.
Easily, one of the best pictures of 2001. I thought that Richard Linklater's other theatrical release from 2001 called WAKING LIFE, was one of the most pretentious and boring movies of the year, so I went into this film expecting more pretension, more of Ethan Hawke acting like Ethan Hawke, and more of all that Sundance bullshit that you see in most highly touted indie flicks these days. Well, I am more than happy to report that I was very wrong in this case, and surprised by this amazing movie which actually managed to, not only maintain my extreme interest throughout, but to slap me upside the head with superior acting, jolting twists, intriguing camerawork, and most importantly, a point of view that simply kept me watching until the very last moment. Wow. What an intense and remarkable movie. Props go out to everyone in the production, most impressively, Richard Linklater, who let his entire pretension being pour out in one of the most self-indulgent projects that I've seen in quite some time (WAKING LIFE-aka IF YOU'RE HIGH, YOU MIGHT ENJOY THIS), but came back to earth with this project, one in which he allowed his actors to take an engrossing story-line and have it come to life with pinpoint characterization, an even balance of right and wrong, and an overall connection to anyone who has ever regretted doing something specific in their lifetime (which is probably everyone in the audience).

Linklater regained my respect here, as did Ethan Hawke, the very serious actor who didn't deserve an Oscar nomination for his role in TRAINING DAY, but definitely deserved something for his go-around in this flick (isn't that just like the Academy?). And Robert Sean Leonard. Who? You might be asking yourself. Exactly! Here's a guy who's probably best known for his roles in DEAD POET'S SOCIETY and SWING KIDS, but who essentially goes mano-a-mano with Ethan Hawke for the first hour of this movie (which takes place in one room and only stars three actors, btw), and comes out smelling like a rose. Good shtuff, bubba! Here's a mench who takes the challenge of an insightful script and established actors, and more than stands his own. And by the time actress Uma Thurman joins the party (who incidentally, is married to co-star Ethan Hawke), the base of the film has been turned into a rock solid foundation and the introduction to the latest character, takes it all to an all-new, and even more interesting, plateau. The bottom line with this movie with me was that it was captivating from the get-go. Yes, it's basically a play (based on one, as well) which stars three people for 90 minutes in one room and not much else. But that made it all that much more impressive. How these folks were able to turn a trio of actors in a room into an all-out engaging, entertaining, edge-of-your-seat dramatic event, is beyond me.

Sure, I personally related to this scenario more than others (the two dudes are basically the Arrow and I, save for the rape angle), but even if you don't relate directly to the characters, the general idea of repenting against one's past digressions, the idea of fessing up to your own wrongs, the idea of moving on and not acknowledging one's past, is one that we can all certainly relate to. I loved this movie because it touched a nerve, it struck me as entirely believable, it was able to maintain my extreme curiosity throughout and it featured many twists and just the right amount of realism from its actors, to safely transport me into their world, and invite me down for an intriguing voyeuristic adventure. Watch this movie if you want to see a great acting workshop. See it if you want to prove to yourself that Richard Linklater isn't all about smoking weed and making self-important movies. See it if you want to see one of the more insightful, entertaining and memorable flicks from 2001 and see it if you want to prove that I am full of shit and that I don't know what makes a good movie (yes, I await the nasty emails). But for whatever reason you decide to see this movie, see it because it might get you to rethink some of the questionable decisions that you yourself may have made in your life, decisions which could, and to some extent, should, change the course of your own well-being. Basically, see it and then call me in the morning.

TAPE is one of the more underrated and unseen pictures of 2001, and I only hope that this dinky review gets you to check it out in the hopes of experiencing one of the stronger independent film productions of the past few years. It just goes to show that you don't need much more than a few really great actors, a solid script and a video camera to attain the level of a powerful movie. An awesome accomplishment for everyone involved.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

Featured Youtube Videos

Views and Counting