Lady Macbeth ★★½

42/100

Even skeptics tend to praise Florence Pugh's performance in the title role, but I submit that her talent obscures some fundamentally poor choices (for which director William Oldroyd shares the blame, of course). An appalling metamorphosis is what's called for, but Pugh works overtime to signal what's coming, right from the outset; she seems disturbed even before the patriarchal nightmare has a chance to warp her. (I suppose one could argue that significant warping occurred throughout the character's childhood, but that's not exactly dramatically satisfying.) Consequently, there's no sense of tragedy or loss here—just a monster whose increasingly horrific crimes are shallowly contextualized by her own mistreatment. Doesn't help that the grand passion that ostensibly motivates Katherine plays like a cheap bodice-ripper, complete with the tired old first-she-resists-then-she-succumbs nonsense. (Truly, I never again want to see a woman suddenly throw her arms around the man she's been desperately fighting off, as if all it takes to get her revved up is incipient sexual assault. This isn't Elle; it's Barbara Cartland with a body count.) Interesting commentary on race happening in the margins, but it's too tentative to draw blood. Curious now to see Wajda's version, though it sounds like it may be similarly one-dimensional/monomaniacal—the problem may really be Leskov's (and Shostakovich's opera may be more my speed).