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Raisin in the Sun (Sous-titres français) [Import]
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Based on the play that inspired a generation, "A Raisin in the Sun" tells the story of a family living and struggling on Chicago's South Side in the 1950s. A fiercely moving portrait of people whose hopes and dreams are constantly deferred, "A Raisin in the Sun" was the first play written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway. The classic, still-relevant story now will be showcased in this totally new television movie adaptation. Sean Combs reprises the role which brought him critical acclaim in the highly anticipated, special three-hour television movie adaptation of the award-winning Broadway revival. Joining him is the cast of the award-winning production, including Emmy and Tony Award winner Phylicia Rashad, four-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, Tony Award nominee Sanaa Lathan, plus "ER" star John Stamos.
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Repeatedly, the edits that were made in what I saw in the broadcast were puzzling. The decision to have Mama visit her drunk son at The Green Hat is dubious; in the play, Hansberry characterizes Lena Younger as a Christian woman who despises liquor and the nightlife of the Southside. The decision to show the whole family visiting the dream house in Clybourne Park is a cop-out--in the play, Lena is the only one to have seen the property, which makes Walter's anger and feeling that his dream has been "butchered" palpable. The Murchison-Beneatha relationship gets short-changed as well--where's the tense 2nd date scene, in which she spurns his crude advances and sees him as a churlish, shallow fool? I also disagree with the producer's decision to have Travis remain in the room for many scenes--what made the original play great was the fact that Travis never gets to see his parents bicker, which is why he idolizes his father, who seems can do no wrong. Thus, some dramatic irony gets lost.
Then, there is the truly odd decision NOT to have Beneatha adopt a full Afro (did the producers fail to see why Hansberry chose this simple yet powerful symbol in her original production???)--this abridgement was inexcusable. Consequently, the ABC production makes Beneatha look like an "assimilationist", despite her protests. What an absolute blow to the characterization of Beneatha, especially given how talented the actress here is.
The lead actors, with one notable exception, were quite good-- I was impressed with how Ruth and Asagai were developed, and I think Bill Nunn was superb in a minor and pivotal role as the naive Bobo. It's a shame this production doesn't include the comical nosey neighbor, Mrs. Johnson, who refers matter-of-factly to a newspaper story about the violence African-Americans face for moving into the suburbs. Indeed, the imminent threat the Youngers face for making such a bold move is watered down in this ABC production.
Lastly, anyone familiar with Hansberry's play should see that Sean P-Diddy Combs really drops the ball in the crucial "Pride" speech--he looks and sounds anemic compared to the riveting performances previously given by Poitier and Glover. The catharsis of his reversal, his rejection of Lindner's buy-out, just wasn't there.
(As a side note, the broadcast ran for three hours, and yet the actual film was just a little over 2 hours--couldn't ABC done the right thing and avoided such a crude abridgement of the dialogue, especially in Act III, and the jarring commercial breaks?)
Would I show this production to my high school students? Yes, but only in bits and pieces given the fact that the production deviates significantly from the original play. Students I've spoken to have expressed mixed reviews about this latest rpoduction.
Teachers, do the right thing and go with the AMERICAN PLAYHOUSE production instead, which is theatre at its finest and true to the spirit and intent of Hansberry's play.
There are nice touches added to this film not in the original version, if you have to compare the two. There are more scenes outside of the cramped, claustrophobic apartment where much of the action takes place. Additionally the voice over of Morgan Freeman reading the Langston Hughes poem "A Raisin in the Sun" is beautiful.
Incuded with the DVD is a version of the film with running commentary by Mr. Leon as well as interviews with practically everyone connected with the film. Much is made by all of them that this is a classic, that it is all about living one's dreams, the ability to love, etc., etc., etc., all of which is true. But there is an elephant in the room that these folks are too kind to mention: that at the heart of this movie is the ugly word "racism." Unfortunately too many white people in this country still do not want a black family moving into their neighborhood.
"A Raisin in the Sun" is in the same league as other American classics: "A Streetcar Named Desire, "Death of A Salesman" and "Long Day's Journey into Night." It will be produced anew for each generation, whether on stage or in film. Mr. Leon's version certainly gets an A-.
I thought acting by ALL was very good and Sean Combs was very good in it; almost like he's an actor rather than music mogul. Phylicia Rashad stole the movie - she played his mother and the scene where she finds out that her late husbands money has all gone, was amazing. I've always known her to be a comic actress and yet this performance was superb. John Stamos has a small role where he plays a nerdy (played well) white guy who is trying to deter the family from moving into a white neiborhood.
As the dvd cover says on the back - "Dreams can make a life worth living, but they can also be dashed by bad decisions". This is mostly what the movie is about. But how the family pull together to still give themselves a better life is the true lesson.
As I said, I cannot compare this version to anything else, but I really enjoyed it and thought it was done very well and acted well by everyone. I hope that it will get some Emmy nods because I feel it's very deserving. I loved it and hope you do as well.