Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead [1990]

Director: Tom Stoppard
Stars: Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, Richard Dreyfuss, Iain Glen, Ian Richardson
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rating: Unrated
Runtime: 113 minutes

Tom Stoppard's modern stage classic finds a pair of film actors worthy of its verbal japery and existential bewilderment: Gary Oldman and Tim Roth are deliciously locked in as the title characters of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. And yet it remains difficult to tell which one is Rosencrantz and which Guildenstern--even they seem unsure--a clever part of Stoppard's ingenious design. Focusing on a pair of unremarkable characters from Hamlet, Stoppard sees the great play from their confused perspective. Now and again the action of Hamlet sweeps them up, but most of the time R&G are left wondering where they are, what they have been sent for, and why they can't remember anything that happened before the beginning of the play. Richard Dreyfuss (fittingly grandiloquent) is the Player King, who seems to know more about the ominous workings of fiction and tragedy than the heroes do. Stoppard's first outing as a film director is handsomely shot but uncertainly paced--although any time Oldman and Roth go into one of their tennis-match debates on probability, identity, or death, the movie crackles. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern may be the "indifferent children of the earth," but for this brief moment they deserve center stage. --Robert Horton

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