How one ultimately feels about Tape depends on his/her level of patience. Although barely under ninety minutes, the first half of Tape still feels excessively long. This is the latest film from Richard Linklater (Waking Life, The Newton Boys) and is adapted by Stephen Belber from his own play. The fact that Tape was a play is easily noticeable. The entire movie takes place in a hotel room, and there are only three characters. Linklater gets around some of these problems by shooting with a digital camera. Aside from Linklater's tendency to experiment with wildly different genres, this gives Tape a claustrophobic feel that enhances the emotions between the three principals.

Johnny (Robert Sean Leonard, Driven, Ground Control) is in town for a film festival. This will be the first time the world sees his first film. He is meeting Vince (Ethan Hawke, Waking Life, Training Day), an old high school friend. The two went in opposite directions. Johnny is moving up in the world, Vince is a volunteer firefighter, drug addict, and dealer. They meet and chat in Johnny's hotel room, where things slowly turn uncomfortable. Johnny is high and drunk, and begins bringing up ghosts from their past, specifically a woman. Vince dated Amy in high school and then broke up with her. Shortly after, Johnny and Amy hooked up at a party, and Vince believes that Johnny raped her. Johnny counters that it was just rough sex.

For this much information to get out, one has to sit through a large amount of arguing and Hawke acting like an idiot. Granted, his character is drunk and high, but this is one of the more annoying performances in recent memory. He yelps and jumps on the furniture, and constantly belittles Johnny. The fact that Johnny keeps talking to Vince shows how deep their friendship is. Most people would leave quickly. Things improve greatly when Amy (Uma Thurman, The Golden Bowl, Vatel) arrives. The emotional intensity by this point is at a fever pitch. Accusations fly between all three people, and the truth becomes even hazier. Tape is a movie about truth and the perception of truth. Over a decade passed since the events in question, and the memories of Vince and Johnny are biased by what they want to believe happened.

Hawke's performance in the first half is annoying, but he improves vastly once Thurman arrives. Leonard and Thurman are much better, mainly because their characters have so much more depth. Thurman seems to serve as a fulcrum between the two men. Everything hinges on her. Everybody is clearly uncomfortable after she arrives, and despite their reluctance, they all need to straighten things out. The first half of the movie is the main problem. Linklater wants to gradually elevate the tension between Vince and Johnny, but he just makes everything so boring. Add to the fact that the two repeatedly argue over the same issue without shedding new light on the matter also frustrates things. They can only rehash the events so many times before it becomes redundant.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 26 minutes, Rated R for language and drug content.

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