Scotland, PA (2001
Running Time: 104 min
MPAA Rating: R
Written and Directed by Billy Morrissette
Story by William Shakespeare
James LeGros .......... Joe 'Mac' McBeth
Maura Tierney ......... Pat McBeth
Christopher Walken .... Lieutenant McDuff
Kevin Corrigan ........ Anthony 'Banco' Banconi
James Rebhorn ......... Norm Duncan
Thomas Guiry .......... Malcolm Duncan
Amy Smart ............. Stacy (Hippie #1)
Speed Levitch ......... Hector (Hippie #2)
Andy Dick ............. Jesse (Hippie #3)
Geoff Dunsworth ....... Donald Duncan
I just love independent filmmakers. Independent movies really get to stretch the limits of the film medium in some of the most creative fashions possible. Scotland, PA is a perfect example of the potential of such films. It was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2001. Filled with inspired acting by people who really want to be in the movie because they admire the brilliance and originality of this diamond in the rough, Billy Morrissette's adaptation of William Shakespeare's Macbeth is a superb piece of filmmaking.
Greasy Spoon. Bloody Murder.
No tagline could better fit this movie. Give ol' Will credit for the storyline, but everything else is pure invention. "It's Shakespeare for the kid in the back row who is getting stoned, reading the Cliff Notes", Morrissette quips. Scotland, PA takes place in a fast food joint in, you guessed it, Scotland, Pennsylvania. This movie oozes 70s almost as much as That '70s Show. Plaid flannell, Ford Mustangs and rock and roll, baby. The latter is especially played up. Nearly every song in the movie is by Bad Company, and those that aren't may as well have been.
Norm Duncan is the owner of a modest, but successful fast food restaurant. It's his own little kingdom, but he's got big ideas: the Drive-Thru. You won't even have to set foot out of your car to get a piping hot dinner in no more time than it takes to drive 50 ft. However, his young assistant manager and his ambitious wife have big ideas of their own. Joe McBeth, urged on by his wife, knocks Duncan off and takes over his fast food empire. (This all sound familiar?) The McBeths steal Duncan's Drive-Thru idea and cash in, but then Lieutenant Ernie McDuff arrives on the scene and things get sticky.
I won't bore you with the plot of Macbeth (if such a thing is possible). I'm sure you know it by now. If you don't, your high school teachers have done you a serious disservice and you should go read it right this very instant. It's the adaptations that really make this movie. In Scotland, PA, Banquo becomes Anthony Banconi, "Banco" to his friends, young Malcolm Duncan is a wannabe rock n roller and the famed spot ("Out damned spot!") is a grease burn. Andy Dick, Speed Levitch and Amy Smart play the parts of the three witches, err... hippies. While superbly done, their part could have been beefed up some. They do not play as significant a role as they did in the original play. Countless other little details make their way into Scotland, PA. The attention to detail despite the dramatic shift in setting is truly remarkable. As always, Shakespeare translates beautifully.
The performances in Scotland, PA are absolutely stellar. In particular, Maura Tierney and Christopher Walken are at the top of their game. Tierney (the wife of director Billy Morrissette) beautifully captures the anger, ambition and angst of Lady Macbeth trapped in the body of a 70s housewife. Lt. McDuff is a refreshing role for Walken. Far from being the same old part you've gotten tired of seeing him in, McDuff is funny and laid-back. Walken is truly a pleasure to see when he's at his best and in this movie he most certainly is. The rest of the cast, from James LeGros as the quiet and angry Joe McBeth, to James Rebhorn and Thomas Guiry as Norman and Malcolm Duncan are almost as good.
Scotland, PA is a fabulous movie for a thousand reasons. Watch it yourself and see, whether you're a fan of the original or not. It's a timeless story of murder and betrayal and this talented cast and crew carry it off stupendously. Scotland, PA definitely ranks up there with Branagh's Love's Labour's Lost and Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead amongst my favorite Shakespeare adaptations. (Yes, I know R&G is not a straight adaptation, but it's sooooo good!) Many years have passed since Morrissette first came up with his idea while working in a fast food joint where he wanted to kill his boss, but Scotland, PA is everything he could possibly have hoped for and more, except that, as far as I know, he didn't get to kill his boss.