By virtue of existing on celluloid, Tape is cinematic. To say that it isn’t is to admit that there is some prerequisite it hasn’t met, like an explosion, a car crash or, more specifically, a second location. Adapted from Stephen Belber’s play of the same name, Richard Linklater’s dramedy is Rashoman for the Gen X sect: inside a confined hotel room, the memory of a rape is deconstructed. Inside this claustrophobic chamber, memory becomes as incongruous and unreliable as the recorded words that authenticate the past. The material doesn’t blur the lines between rape and consent, it suggests that the ownership of someone’s past is the most malicious form of control. Drug dealer Vince (a plump Ethan Hawke) blames his friend Johnny (Robert Sean Leonard)—in town to present his film at the Lansing Film Festival—for having raped his ex-girlfriend, Amy (Uma Thurman), when they were in high school. As the film unravels, Vince’s rage becomes less about Amy’s alleged rape than it does about his own jealousy over not having had her first. Johnny admits to the rape and Vince records the confession on micro-cassette. “I own it,” says Vince, planning to give the tape to Amy, who lives and works in Lansing as an assistant district attorney. Once Amy arrives at the hotel room, the only rape she acknowledges is that of words and memories. If Vince owns the tape, then who owns Johnny’s words? And if Johnny says there was a rape, then who is to say there wasn’t? Johnny is proud that he never turned to a life-long career of crime after raping Amy, but a startling admission on Amy’s part fascinatingly distorts his foolish idea of self-perseverance. Linklater literalizes the text’s reflexivity by playing with hotel room mirrors. That said, Tape is mostly uncinematic—nothing explodes or crashes and the film never leaves its one location. In the end, Tape isn’t limited by the theatricality of Belber’s words as much as it’s constricted by Linklater’s unfulfilling use of inner space. Then again, the magic is all in the words.
- Lions Gate Films
- 84 min
- Richard Linklater
- Stephen Belber
- Ethan Hawke, Robert Shawn Leonard, Uma Thurman
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