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Illuminata

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Susan Sarandon, Illuminata

Illuminata

type:
Movie
Current Status:
In Season
mpaa:
R
performer:
Katherine Borowitz, Beverly D'Angelo, Ben Gazzara, Donal McCann, Susan Sarandon, Rufus Sewell, Christopher Walken
director:
John Turturro
author:
John Turturro
genre:
Comedy

We gave it a C+

Like its close relative ”Shakespeare in Love,” Illuminata celebrates theater folk living the theater life. Unlike its Brit-besotted cousin, however, this handsome, airtight meditation on art, celebrity, love, and rampant repertory-group horniness indulges in a lot of very American navel gazing — the prerogative of producer-director-cowriter John Turturro.

The hyphenate also costars as Tuccio, resident playwright in a colorful, turn-of-the-century New York company fortunate enough to include actors played by actors including Bill Irwin, Rufus Sewell, Ben Gazzara, and Aida Turturro, the filmmaker’s cousin — while the filmmaker’s wife, Katherine Borowitz, plays Rachel, the group’s manager, leading lady, ideal of womanhood, and Tuccio’s beloved. The playwright’s self-absorbed worries include: When will the world recognize my genius? Is Rachel more famous than I am? Can two artists work together and love one another despite all temptations and competition?

Although Borowitz, with her dancerly bearing, is regal as a patient woman who stands by her imperfect man, when ”Illuminata” lingers on these questions — which the married couple has probably had to grapple with — the production feels self-congratulatory and illuminated only dimly. On the other hand, when the players cavort (Susan Sarandon hams genially as a sharky diva), ”Illuminata” cracks all-too-easy jokes about the world of greasepaint.

Cheesiest of all (and at the same time most audience-pleasing, of course) are the laughs milked at the expense of critics, whose worst attributes are rolled into the grotesque gay fop played by Christopher Walken, shooting barbs like a champion archer. ”He was so young, and so untalented,” the man quips about an actor who falls ill on stage. The miserable, loveless laughingstock of a scribbler does, however, redeem himself at the end in Turturro’s fantasy: He too is moved by Tuccio’s brilliance.