Illuminata is the name of the new movie by John Turturro (Barton Fink) and the name of the play his character, Tuccio is penning within the movie. Turturro directs a star-studded cast including Susan Sarandon, Christopher Walken, Rufus Sewell, Ben Gazzara, Beverly D'Angelo, Georgina Cates, and Katherine Borowitz. The movie is directed by Turturro, and is based on a play by Brandon Cole. Immediately, echoes of Shakespeare In Love come to mind. Illuminata is an unfinished play by a playwright who is struggling with writer's block, and Tuccio's future rests on the success of his new play.

The movie centers on Tuccio's efforts to finish the play. Using an opportunity at the beginning of the film, Tuccio stages his play in front of an audience. Their reaction is very bad. Noted theater critic Bevalaqua (Walken) pans the production. The theater owners want Illuminata to be replaced with something by Ibsen, but Rachel (Borowitz), the company owner and lover of Tuccio refuses. Celimene (Sarandon), an aging theater actor, wishes for Tuccio to become her personal playwright and tour with her across Europe, which would mean Tuccio would have to abandon his own company. Meanwhile, the police Rachel's father (Gazzara) for almost blinding the son of a town official, and Bevalaqua becomes infatuated with one of the actors in the company. He goes, under duress, to Bevalaqua to try to convince him to give the play another review, hopefully, a good one. As rumors of Tuccio's possible departure with Celimene, the company begins to fall apart. If it sounds like a farce to you, then you're right. Kind of. Many of the funny elements just aren't funny.

The process of moving a play to the screen can be a difficult one. Sometimes, things that work on stage will not work at all on the big screen. Illuminata is a prime example of this. The story characters are flowing with life, but the story is dull. As in the aforementioned Shakespeare In Love, the playwright incorporates his experiences into the play (Shakespeare and Viola in Shakespeare, and Tuccio and Rachel in Illuminata). However, we only see a very small part of the play Illuminata, and what we see doesn't really whet our appetites for more. The entire middle portion of the movie deals with the different schemes put on by the characters to try to get the play back on, and some parts are funny, but the rest seems to be filler.

The acting is superb, but the actors are stuck in working with what they were given. Walken does his customarily strange job with his character, who hates almost everything. His attempted seduction of Marco the actor is probably the funniest portion of the film. Sewell (Dark City, The Very Thought of You) is very good as the vain lead actor of Tuccio's company. Gazzara and the talented and lovely Cates (Clay Pigeons and Stiff Upper Lips) are also very good, but have very small roles (Georgina, make more movies!!!). Turturro and Borowitz are good separately, but together, there is not much chemistry between them. As good as the actors are, they are not good enough to make the film better.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay
1 hour, 59 minutes, Rated R for sexual content, nudity, and language.

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