For me, the sum of the parts is not equal to the whole in Kubrick’s movie. He does a terrific job with creating a genuinely creepy mood, and the Steadi-cam work and sound recording are astounding in creating large empty atmospheres that have menace oozing into frames that don’t have anything traditionally “scary” going on. Plus, the liberties he takes towards the end, while largely incoherent, still have a visually arresting power. They jolt you (even, for me, that last shot–so beautifully paced and tinged with nightmare nostalgia).
But little of it means anything when there are no central characters to hang on to. Jack is nuts from the get go, and Shelley Duvall (who I generally like as an actress) is so wilty and passive that she’d drive anyone crazy in too short a period of time. Danny’s fine, as is Scatman, but they’re not enough. All you’re left with are brilliantly crafted, emotionally empty setpieces (which pretty much sums up Kubrick’s career, post-Clockwork).
I only caught bits and pieces of the mini-series, but it felt like it was being as faithful as it could be–and the problem with that approach is that you’re invited to compare everything to the book, where it simply can’t match up. At least the Kubrick takes things in different directions that you have to take it on its own terms. The casting was more interesting in the mini-series, but I simply got bored before the end.
Jack Nicholson’s “Jack” was not. A psychopath. From the start.
Two things are coloring some of you folks’ perceptions of the movie’s Jack: (1) Nicholson’s over-the-top performance in the second half, and (2) Jack Nicholson’s own devilish looks and persona. If you’ll watch the film again, you’ll see that, in the beginning, Nicholson’s Jack was easily as mild-mannered as the character in the book, if not more so. Only after he’s in the Overlook a while do we start to see the demented grin emerging.
Kubrick obviously wanted to use an actor in whom it would be easy to see the monster leaking through- let’s not forget, this is a gothic tale. An hotel with a history of murder and madness, ghosts, voices, etc.? Of course your tragic hero should look a little nuts!
I’m sorry, love the novel like crazy if you wish (I certainly do), but the moment you get so precious as to let your cinematic experience be ruined by a casting choice, I don’t know. Maybe you shouldn’t be going to see adaptations of your favorite books!
Casting choices do ruin movies, whether based on an original screenplay or taken from a novel. Here’s a few hypotheticals for you: Tarzan of the Apes starring Wally Cox as Tarzan. King Lear starring William Shatner. Dirty Harry starring Kasey Kasem. The Usual Suspects starring Paul Lynde, Charles Nelson Reilly, Charley Weaver, Tom Arnold, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and Gary Coleman. Some Like It Hot with Marlon Brando, George C. Scott, and Divine.
Based on the character’s personality, I agree that Jack Nicholson wasn’t the greatest of all possible choices to play him. He forgot how to be any character other than “Crazy Jack Nicholson” decades ago.
That seems like a pretty specious argument, Moody. I mean, who hasn’t had a movie pretty much ruined for them by a crappy casting choice? It doesn’t have anything to do with being precious, it has to do with some people just not working as some characters. Adaptations and remakes are always harder in this sense, because people already have an established background for the character. If the new portrayal doesn’t fit with what the audience already knows about the character, it’s going to detract from the finished work. It’s just how it is. If you can’t make your characters work with what people already know about them, you shouldn’t make any movies at all, much less adaptations of someone else’s work.
Your examples, while funny, don’t quite prove your point. Dick Powell was largely known as a musical comedy guy in the '30s and '40s before he was cast as Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet. That film is now regarded as one of the best Raymond Chandler adaptations ever made. For a more recent example, would you ever have dreamed of Steve Martin as a serious bad guy? But he was one, a great one, in The Spanish Prisoner. Unlikely casting choices can make for wonderful surprises if you don’t cram actors into these narrow boxes of expectation.
P.S. In 1980, Nicholson wasn’t regarded as “Crazy Jack Nicholson.” His Shining performance was one of his first real over-the-top extravaganzas. So people didn’t assume going into theaters back then, “Ah, here comes that hammy guy, always chewing the scenery.”
But each individual audience member’s idea of the character can’t be anything other than subjective. My point is if you can’t handle the fact that a filmamker envisioned the character slightly differently than you did, maybe you’re not ready to fairly judge their interpretation of the work. And yeah, that strikes me as a little precious. Like you’re more concerned with your own personal, individual vision being honored than giving the director a chance to show you his.
There have been horrible casting decisions, sure, but generally they aren’t the sole reaons behind bad movies.
I agree with Moody. I never saw Nicholson’s “Jack Torrance” crazy from the begining. I do believe he was troubled, but not a psychopath. Later, when they are at the hotel he’s talking to Wendy about how he loves the Overlook and about his job interview:
“It’s like I’d been there before. I mean, we all have our moments of deja vu, but this was ridiculous.”
The hotel was probably trying to get at him from the moment he stepped in for the job interview.
When he talks to Wendy after his interview (telling her he’s coming home in a few hours), he doesn’t seem crazy. Nor does he seem like a nutcase when Ullman is giving them the tour. He seems pretty sane to me when he’s eating his breakfast the next morning, and by then the movie has been going on for at least 45 minutes. To me, the first signs that something is really wrong is when he tells Wendy to leave him alone while he’s typing.
If he did act crazy, it was probably because Nicholson had to work with Kubrick. I would have gone crazy too.
Uhh when did I say it ruined it for me? I said the ONLY thing I didn’t like was he was a psychopath from the start. Doesn’t sound like I hated the movie to me.
I also hate to break it to you but I saw the movie first. In the movie I ALWAYS thought the father was acting like a psycho from the moment you saw him in the car driving to the hotel. He’s always acting edgy and nervous and leering at his wife and kids. This of course may be his ‘persona’ but I had never seen Jack Nicholson before that (I was fairly young when I saw the Shinning originally) he looked crazy he seemed on the edge. He struck me as a psychopath.
I was utterly shocked when I read the book and found out how much he loved his son. On screen all his ‘love’ was creepy. In the book he had a genuine love for his family and was just trying to do the right thing.
Roll those eyes up the street, friend. During the time period you refer to, he was also well-known for films like Five Easy Pieces and Carnal Knowledge. Which goes to my original point, that by 1980, he wasn’t simply known as Mr. Ham-it-Up. That came later–'80s into the '90s–when, much like with Al Pacino, the paycheck and the grandstanding started mattering more than subtleties and nuance (see Witches of Eastwick, Few Good Men, Wolf, etc. etc.)
Are you president of the Jack fan club or something? I said he ‘looked’ nervous and restless. That’s acting.
I said he looked at his family in a creepy way. That is acting.
He always seemed impatient and hostile towards his family. That is a mixture of acting and the script.
Seems to me the spirits said “hey go kill your wife” and he responded like “sure just let me get a beer first” That’s a flaw in the script that painted him as someone that could do that with little prompting. Yes I know there was more then just that but it was rather unconvincing that what he went through would change a man that wasn’t nuts to begin with.
This wasn’t a decent towards madness it was someone that was already in the kiddie pool he just wadded farther out.
I liked both film versions. I think Kubrick did a great job with tension. Even during a calmer scene, I felt there was always some tension under the surface. I think Nicholson and Duvall were eerie in the film. Duvall was creepy on her own, with her voice and expressions backing up the stairs with a baseball bat, I thought she was scarier than Jack at that point. She was also annoying, and that served to raise the tension for me as well. The caretaker ghost smiling except for his eyes, very menacing. I also got a real sense the hotel had a life of its own.
I disliked the wasp nest part of the book, but liked it fine in the remake. I was glad to see the topiary animals come to life. I did think it was a scary part of the book, slipping down into who knew what while playing in the cement tubes. I think the best change was Room 217. I like things left up to my imagination, but I did think the woman in the bathtub was spooky, and so felt it was a good addition. Not as much tension or cool imagery, but it remained truer to the book, so I liked it equally well. YMMV
Well, I’m with Darkhold if anyone cares. In all of Nicholoson’s scenes with his family he comes across as just getting ready to snap. Sure he gets more demented at the typing scene, but all interactions wth has family said bad juju about to braek off. Which as pointed out is very different from the book and miniseries, although he’s no prince in either of those, he comes off as more of a tragic fugure than Kubrics.
See, but the films you cite (as well as those closer to 1980, like Missouri Breaks or Goin’ South) all fall into a general Jack persona, even back then: someone you couldn’t fundamentally trust. There has always been something benignly sinister about his looks, carriage, and line delivery.
Probably the most normal, well-adjusted character he’d played up until then was in King of Marvin Gardens. Now, if he looked and behaved in The Shining as he had in that film, his descent into madness would be more believable. But in the first job interview, he doesn’t seem completely sincere–something’s going on with him from the start. In his first scene with his family, you don’t really see a loving father–something’s a bit off. This may have as much to do with the script and Kubrick’s choices, but the end result is the same: Nicholson’s portrayal makes Torrance’s madness not a tragic downward spiral, but a foregone conclusion, and the film suffers radically because of it.
I haven’t read the book yet, and if I had read it before seeing the film, my opinon might be completely different. As it is, I loved the film, as I like Kubrick’s work in general.
In the film, the main character is really the hotel. I think Kubrick did a wonderful job of evoking the creepy atmosphere of the place. The intense colors of the rooms, the vast empty spaces, all are enough to make you go insane. The scenes with Danny driving his big-wheel through the empty corridors are thoroughly unnerving.
Kubrick’s focus on the space rather than on the human characters may seem a shortcoming; I’m sure that the novel goes into the characters’ minds much more deeply and effectively. However, I personally liked Kubrick’s approach. YMMV.
I have to agree. I love Jack Nicholoson’s acting, but he can’t play normal guys well. There’s something about him that’s vaguely unsettling; you don’t get happy, loving vibes from his characters. He does play Crazy Jack Torrance excellently, but his performance as Normal Jack Torrance is unconvincing.
Jack Torrance is a hard character to cast well. You need an actor with a very broad range. Someone who can play Joe Everyman as well as The Joker.
Yeah but I think this is what heightened the tension in the movie, for me at least. It would have been so easy (and unfulfilling) to watch him do the nice-guy-to-wacko metamorphosis a la the Amityville Horror-style movies of the 80’s. The fact that he doesn’t quite look all there from the beginning makes it a helluva lot more believable for me. Add to that his annoying (and quite frankly, ugly) wife Shell Duv and it makes for a more compelling mix.
Although I speak as no fan of SK, who has written approximately 1.5 paragraphs that I have actually liked (yes, I consider him an overrated shitster too). So I’m probably not all about sticking to the original like others here.