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Metascore
76

Generally favorable reviews - based on 6 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 5 out of 6
  2. Negative: 0 out of 6

Critic Reviews

  1. Entertainment Weekly
    Reviewed by: Darren Franich
    Sep 24, 2018
    50
    The gray cinematography is unforgivably mulchy, though, giving the dialogue a speechy repetitiveness. But Emma Thompson and Emily Watson shine in the crazy good cast as Lear's older daughters. [28 Sep 2018, p.49]
User Score
7.5

Generally favorable reviews- based on 4 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 4
  2. Negative: 0 out of 4
  1. Sep 28, 2018
    7
    Easily the weakest link in this TV movie of King Lear is Anthony Hopkins in the role of Lear himself. That this is so may seem strange, asEasily the weakest link in this TV movie of King Lear is Anthony Hopkins in the role of Lear himself. That this is so may seem strange, as Hopkins played the role of Lear over one-hundred times in David Hare's 1986 National Theatre production. So how coule he possibly give an under par performance? Well, probably because he played the role over one-hundred times. The performance is lethargic, jaded, lazy, as if it's routine, become so familiar that all meaning has evaporated from the text. Hopkins plays Lear as an easy-to-anger man, used to getting his own way, with little time for sentiment, whose grip on reality is becoming increasingly tenuous. Nothing wrong with that - it's a very basic reading of the character, but still nothing inherently wrong with it. The problem is, we've seen Hopkins play this character before, or a variation thereof, in everything from Legends of the Fall to Nixon to The Wolfman. Indeed, his performances in Eyre's Lear is, beat for beat, a virtual carbon copy of his performance in Julie Taymor's Titus. There are many similarities between the characters, to be sure, but not so many that the parts should be played in exactly the same way (as a contrast, look at Brian Cox's performance in the two roles; Titus in Deborah Warner's ground-breaking 1987 RSC production, and Lear in Warner's 1990 National Theatre production – three years, and an ocean of interpretive difference separate the performances).

    Hopkins's performance has two gears – scenery chewing and shouty scenery chewing. That's it. Compare the lack of pathos, emotion, or nuance in his performance to, for example, Cox, Paul Scofield, Jüri Järvet, Laurence Olivier, or Anthony Sher. All of them show more range, and a wider and more complete understanding of the text than Hopkins's one-note performance. Also, his tendency to pause in the middle of verse lines is extremely distracting, and completely disrupts the meter. Such pauses serve to create artificial caesuras in the iambic pentameter lines, turning the verse into a bizarre amalgamation of anapaestic and dactylic hexameters, and even heptameters. A stronger director would have stamped this out, or had the actor speak in prose (as a few of the other actors do), but to have the actor speak in verse, but show no respect for the verse is...strange.

    Thankfully the rest of the cast are universally strong. And what a cast! Emma Thompson as an especially nasty Goneril; Jim Broadbent as a deeply sympathetic Gloucester; John MacMillan as a soft-spoken Edmund; Andrew Scott as a highly emotional Edgar; Jim Carter as a gruff Kent; soon-to-be-superstar Florence Pugh as a very young and wide-eyed Cordelia; Karl Johnson as a decidedly serious Fool; Christopher Eccleston as a suitably ridiculous Oswald; Anthony Calf as a take-charge Albany; and Chukwudi Iwuji as an understanding France. However, the film is stolen by the work of Emily Watson and Tobias Menzies as an insanely bloodthirsty Regan and Cornwall. Watson's Regan oozes raw sexuality, and the (very graphic) blinding scene clearly turns both of them on. Two terrific performances which left me wishing there was more of them together in the play.

    Also impressive is Eyre's direction, although the lack of editing rhythm in the opening scene is a little strange, and the shot composition in places tends to flatten the image, making it seem a little like a filmed play. His decision to set the play in modern London, however, with Lear as a retiring pseudo-dictator, works very well (Edgar is an astrophysicist, Edmund is in the armed forces). In this context, the shopping mall scene is especially well conceived and executed, as a now quite mad Lear wanders around a near-derelict shopping mall in a bad part of town, dressed like a vagrant, pushing a shopping trolley, and talking to a doll. It's a deeply unsettling image than encapsulates perfectly just how far he has fallen. Also well conceived is the scene set in an asylum seekers' refugee camp. The political commentary is a little on the nose, as Lear looks around the camp at the faces of the refugees, forcing him to consider issues of which he's never before conceived, but it's effective, timely and non-intrusive.

    So, all-in-all, a strong adaptation with an excellent cast brought down only by a weak central performance. Unfortunately, the part of Lear is so completely central, pivotal, and dominating, that if it doesn't work, there's a problem. Hopkins's performance isn't so bad as to distract too much from the excellent work done elsewhere in the piece, but what's annoying about it is it could easily have been so much better. Mind you, members of the cast have been active on Twitter and the interview circuit for the last couple of weeks talking about how much they loved working with Hopkins, and how tremendous they think he is in the role (oftentimes, going to the set even when they weren't working, just to watch him filming). So, what the hell do I know?

    7/10
    Full Review »
  2. Oct 2, 2018
    5
    This is one of the most lackluster and poorly directed adaptations of King Lear I have ever had the misfortune of viewing. Anthony Hopkins isThis is one of the most lackluster and poorly directed adaptations of King Lear I have ever had the misfortune of viewing. Anthony Hopkins is fine, I guess? Some of his deliveries feel really phoned in. A lot of the script was cut too, but not just the fluff, there were some pivotal moments that were left out which will surely be confusing to anyone not familiar with King Lear.

    The worst scene unfortunately is the storm scene. When Lear and the Fool are walking in the rain, it is very obiviously CGI rain, and it is not edited well. It was a very disappointing moment. The direction of the whole story was terrible and this Lear did not earn it's ending.

    My two favorite parts of the show were Emma Thompson as Goneril and John MacMillan as Edmund. They carried the whole movie and saved it from being completely irredeemable. All in all, while there were some shining moments, this King Lear is 2 hours I will never get back.
    Full Review »
  3. Oct 18, 2018
    8
    I think this adaptation of King Lear is one of the best films of 2018 so far, though it was released directly to TV. The play has been editedI think this adaptation of King Lear is one of the best films of 2018 so far, though it was released directly to TV. The play has been edited down to a more digestible, two-hour running time, sometimes at the expense of the plot. It's still a Shakespeare tragedy, though, and it's impossible not to be moved by it. Anthony Hopkins' Lear is pretty malevolent, so it's hard to feel sorry for the tragic hero, but the actor still does an excellent job. It is thrilling to watch such skilled actors deliver the beautiful, immortal lines of Shakespeare. Full Review »