CHANNEL 4 4SEVEN E4 MORE4 FILM4 4MUSIC 4oD

Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • TBC
  • 2003
  • 352 mins

Angels In America Part One

Angels In America Part One

Synopsis

Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson are among the stars in this epic TV adaptation of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer-Prize-winning play. Multi-stranded and multi-layered, it uses the spread of Aids in 1980s America to explore the era's personal, pol

About

Tony Kushner's Broadway play was subtitled 'A Gay Fantasia On National Themes' which is an accurate description of this ambitious, occasionally delirious and compelling adaptation. Like director Nichols' previous work - The Graduate Catch 22 - it's a deft blend of the intimate and the epic, its characters' personal trajectories leading the drama into broader, more political territory. Kushner's script ensures the issues - sex, death, race, religion - are confronted head-on, but there are also fevered trips into the surreal, drug-induced hallucinations and set-pieces so gloriously overblown they border on the kitsch.

Six hours long but divided into two, episode one is entitled Millennium Approaches, and it introduces the major players. Ruthless lawyer Roy Cohn (Pacino) is dying of AIDS but refuses to admit his homosexuality - not through shame exactly, but because "homosexuals have no clout". Prior Walter (Kirk) is also dying of AIDS and though his lover Louis (Shenkman) is consumed with liberal guilt, he leaves Prior anyway. Joe (Wilson) is the young Mormon lawyer whom Cohn attempts to corrupt, and he too struggles with his homosexuality. Harper (Parker) is Joe's fragile wife and a combination of Valium-addiction and sexual frustration leads her to hallucinate a mystical travel agent who transports her to Antarctica via a fridge.

It sounds elaborate, and it is. Yet every performance is expertly judged and it's hard to remember the last time Pacino demonstrated anything like this level of charisma. Kushner's script is florid at times, but his linguistic flights of fancy emphasise the sense of hyper-reality and when he cuts loose - in a fantasy sequence featuring Simon Callow and Michael Gambon as ancient English ghosts, for example - the results are exhilarating and blackly comic.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Emma Thompson, Al Pacino, Justin Kirk, Patrick Wilson, Meryl Streep, Ben Shenkman, Mary Louise Parker, Jeffrey Wright
  • Director: Mike Nichols
  • Screen Writer: Tony Kushner
  • Producer: Celia D Costas
  • Photographer: Stephen Goldblatt
  • Composer: Thomas Newman

In a nutshell

This being part one, it ends on a vertiginous cliff-hanger: Prior receives a Blake-like visitation from Emma Thompson's Angel. Episode Two clearly has a lot to cover, but all involved here spread their wings and take flight.

by Jon Fortgang

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4 Wish I Was Here

    Wish I Was Here

    Zach Braff writes, directs and stars in his belated second feature about a man who begins to re-examine the relationships in his life after his father falls ill

  • Film4 A Walk Among The Tombstones

    A Walk Among the Tombstones

    Ex-New York cop turned unlicensed private detective Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson) hunts down two ruthless kidnappers, who target the wives of mid-level drug dealers with ready cash

  • Film4 Ferris Bueller's Day Off

    Wheels In Motion Season On Film4

    It's a parade of motorcycles, trains and automobiles on Film4 as the Wheels In Motion Season gets rolling

  • Film4 The Moo Man

    The Moo Man On Film4

    Director Andy Heathcote tells the story of a farmer (Stephen Hook) and his cows on an organic dairy farm in the acclaimed Sundance documentary on Film4.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Film4 Productions at TIFF 2014

    We round up the enthusiastic reception of the six Film4-backed films which played at Toronto 2014, including the world premieres of The Riot Club, The Duke Of Burgundy and Second Coming. The Riot Clu

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF 2014: Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films

    Film4.com Editor Michael Leader stays up past his bedtime to sample the delights of TIFF¿s Midnight Madness strand¿ Let me set the scene. It¿s 11.15pm, I¿m glugging full-fat Pepsi and my pockets ar

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share