Every new filmmaker wishes to have a huge success with his first feature film. And that of course is understandable. However, I don’t know how may of them were able to achieve what was accomplished by Mike Nichols (Wolf, CLOSER, THE GRADUATE) with one single film, where it received 13 nominations for the Oscar, and won five. However, seeing the plot, the incredible cast lead by Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal and Sandy Dennis, it would not surprise you much with such a great win. However, as the story has already proved us, any film with big actors could flop easily… but not this one, not WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? And not when it was carefully supervised by the genius filmmaker, Mike Nichols.
George (Richard Burton) and Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) are an aging married couple, whose troubled marriage reaches its peak when they stop playing by rule. One Sunday, as per Martha’s father’s request, they invite a young couple to their house to entertain them with their sharp, biting, and uncontrolled manner of speech with great support of their dearest ‘friend’, alcoholic drinks. A fun evening turns into crazy night, where the mixed emotions takes over everything and leads them into even more insane ending, where everyone soon will find out scrupulous facts of their personal life, and what they have been hiding in the closet will come outside.
Martha and George are very strange, but meantime, highly educated couple who seem not for the first time allow themselves to relax in the company of barely known individuals, to test not only their friend’s limit, but theirs as well. Despite having such a simple, and absolutely uncomplicated plot, the film surprises with its first minute, when you start shutting yourself down from the outside world, to allow yourself to live the quiet madness ascending in the house. The complexity of the characters is fascinating. Their ability to unfold more details about their lives, emotions, and flexibility in term of going with the flow of madness is truly shocking. Each character in the film is quite responsive, proactive, and ready to explode with a single click.
Both Martha and George appear like a conductor who lead their own orchestra. But one wrong gesture, the entire beauty of the music disappears, leaving behind nothing, but intelligible score. The performance delivered by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton is so real, that sometimes it may scary you. But meantime, they understand each other on the set so well, and the character’s study is so complete, that you don’t want this to end at all. Sandy Dennis as Honey is truly unforgettable. Her character is full of surprises, but meantime, like a guitar string, if you don’t touch it, it won’t make a noise. But once you start playing it, it will send out a beautiful tune. And this is what the viewer can get from Nichol’s masterpiece, WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, which I must say, is one of the best cinematic achievements, where you needed nothing, but one great story, superb cast and one man, who will translate the insane story into one film. And you will get what you asked, nothing less but rather, more….