Projections - Movie Reviews

Scotland, PA

Scotland, PA

One of Shakespeare's bloodiest plays, MacBeth, gets a fairly amusing tweaking in bill Morrissette's Scotland, PA, as the bard's Scottish tragedy is suited to the 70's and the advent of the "Big Mac."

This is different from many of Kenneth Branaugh films and Morrissette makes fun of "MacBeth" in ways that underline populism over main characters in parts of notable politicians or corporate executives, e.g. the recent adaptation of Hamlet with Ethan Hawke and Julia Stiles.

In rural Pennsylvania, Joe "Mac" McBeth, done by James LeGos as a dumb red neck, and wife Pat (Maura Tierney - "ER") are workers at a greasy fast-food joint.  Their boss is Norm Duncan (James Rebhorn) who used to be huge in the world of doughnuts.

The early fun from Morrissette sees the McBeths in action after Mac loses out on a promotion to Duncan's rock musician son, Thomas Guiry's Malcolm.  A friolator is where Duncan is sent head-first by the oddly paired, driven husband and wife.

Larceny positions them to buy-out Malcolm and music loving sibling, Donald, acted by Geoff Dunsworth.  These small-time crooks become big by stealing from Duncan's ideas as the McBeth's score with combo-meals and drive-thru windows.

Yet, Scotland, PA, in its light-hearted, slacker approach, pushes the buttons of what's to come in one of Shakespeare's most political plays.

An imaginary grease burn consumes Pat and a haunting sign of three hippies, played by Andy Dick, Amy Smart and Timothy "Speed" Levitch, form an eerie meeting at a carnival and engulfs her increasingly paranoid husband.

Uncertainty mounts as colleague and employee Banco (Kevin Corrigan) isn't totally sure about the scheme against Duncan's sons.  An off center investigator who's a vegetarian, Christopher Walken's Lt. Ernie McDuff, begins to show signs as a competent detective.

No one will dispute that Scotland, PA is sharply wry in its first two acts.  The dialogue and low budgeted affair calls to mind the mores of the 70's with streakers, Yahtzee, fondue, macramé, and the Dennis Weaver TV show McCloud.

Near the last reel, the narrative starts to get worn like an old sitcom as Morrissette lets the proceeding burn a little too wildly, as the  "three hippies" guild betrayal conspiring into a tragic incompetent descent.

Filling Pat with a zesty ambition, Tierney bites heartily into a maddening blond-streaked woman.  She speaks for the times and her downtrodden milieu: "We're not bad people, just underachievers looking to make up for lost time."

What unusual charms that Scotland, PA provides, unlike most fast-food meals, come through the peculiarly precious Walken who effectively channels his "Columbo" like detective.  Even the Bard would have laughed at the tranquil, meditative detective who has some priceless discourse with Duncan's disparate sons.

Scotland, PA

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