Movie review- NTL: All About Eve (2019)

A remarkable blurring of the lines between cinema and theatre

All oabout EveMy wife suggested that we go see All About Eve at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady. I had heard of the Bette Davis/Anne Baxter film from 1950, of course, but I had never seen it.

No, she meant the new National Theater Live version “performed in the Noël Coward theatre and is an adaptation from the well-known film.” It played twice at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, but we had missed it.

The production stars Gillian Anderson, best known from the television show The X-Files, as Margo Channing, an accomplished, but temperamental stage actress. Lily James (Downton Abbey, title role in 2015’s Cinderella) is Eve Harrington, a huge Margo fan with a “melancholy life story.”

Having read the description of the 1950 film, this story stays true to the source material, but the technology has made it much more than a filmed version of a play.

“Spending ages trying to get the rights, writer/director Ivo van Hove proves that it was worth the wait, with a remarkable blurring of the lines between cinema and theatre (all backed by PJ Harvey’s simmering score.)”

His search for the rights to “The Wisdom of Eve”, the short story by Mary Orr, from which writer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz adapted the earlier screenplay, is described in the short piece prior to the action.

“Separating the stage layout into several sets, Hove attaches a large protector screen to the back of the set, and films (in real-time) private exchanges between characters in corridors, which are shown at the same time as with on-stage events (such as around a dining table) continue to unfold.”

This was an astonishingly effective technique. Sometimes, the main action was on the screen as the folks on the stage waited. One also got to see Margo, or Eve’s, full face, as they looked into the mirror.

The other actors were fine as well. I couldn’t help note that the 2019 version had a cast far more diverse than the origin film.

If All About Eve comes to a theater near you, I highly recommend that you go see it!