Vanya on 42nd Street
Entertainment: +1 1/2
Acceptability: +1

A play-within-a-movie, VANYA is set in the deteriorating, once grand New Amsterdam Theatre near Times Square. The squalid world of 42nd Street is evident as the actors head toward a final run-through of a play based on Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya." The play draws the audience in, and becomes the movie. There, a pompous, retired professor (George Gaynes) owns the estate managed by his former brother-in-law, Vanya (Wallace Shawn). Between endless rounds of vodka, the aging handsome Dr. Astrov (Larry Pines) hopelessly pursues Yelena (Julianne Moore), the professor's sultry young wife. Meanwhile, unaware, plain-looking niece Sonya (Brooke Smith) longs to be loved by the doctor. Throughout, Uncle Vanya complains sarcastically about everything, worrying that his forty-seven years have passed without his enjoying life. An uproar and final reconciliation take place when the suggestion is made to sell the estate. Not for everyone, VANYA is artistic and tends to be "talky." Striking are the parallels between the collapsing theatre, the bitter-sweet life experiences of Uncle Vanya and niece Sonya, and the state of theatre in today's world. Character development is strong, and the mix of theater and realism gives added character to a sometimes intense drama.

While VANYA has some offensive elements, especially exclamatory profanities and drinking, it carries a strong message of peace, reconciliation, and hope through God's mercy. Sonya and Yelena are both shown praying. Yelena prays for strength, and she resists the advances of the doctor. Sonya prays to know God's will, vowing that she will be submissive until death brings her beauty and joy "with the angels." The housekeeper says she will pray for the professor. The doctor wants to leave a legacy for future generations, planting trees and working to conserve natural resources. Sonya entreats him to stop drinking and gambling, to which he agrees, although he only cuts back. The drinking is treated neutrally because of the Russian culture. VANYA is commendably free of other objectionable elements. The only violence is when the grandmother hits her son Vanya with a spiral notebook. There are no obscenities, profanities or sexual content, except the opening scene which shows a prostitute and the porn shops on 42nd Street. The typical Russian stoicism pervades the movie, as nearly everyone waits patiently for God's will, with forgiveness and reconciliation.

Preview Reviewer: Alice Anderson
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics, 711 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10022

Crude Language: Several (7) times - Mild
Obscene Language: None
Profanity: Several (6) times - Exclamatory
Violence: Once - Mild (Grandmother hits Vanya with a spiral notebook)
Sexual Intercourse: None
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: Prostitute and porn shops shown briefly
Drug Abuse: Many times (drinking vodka; cigarette smoking)
Other: Several characters pray; strong belief in God
Running Time:
Intended Audience: Mature teens and adults

Copyright Preview Family Movie Review (