Uncharted Cinema #11: Scotland, PA


Billy Morrissette, USA, 2001, 104 min. 

Read about the Uncharted Cinema Project here.

Before: I don’t know about this film, besides it’s a version of Macbeth. I’m expecting a very 90’s indie vibe: no money, lots of spirit, good script, uninteresting direction. But I’m probably just type-casting. We’ll see!

After: Well, I was right about one thing. Scotland, PA stinks of an independent film of the time period. But that isn’t a bad thing! This updated Shakespeare tale tells the story of MacBeth but sets it in a small-town restaurant in the 70’s.

“McBeth” (James Le Gros) and his wife (Maura Tierney) work as a waiter and waitress at Duncan’s, just waiting around for things to get better. They assume that will happen when their manager gets fired for stealing and McBeth (the obvious replacement) gets a promotion.

Except the owner (James Rebhorn), decides to keep the management position in the family and give it to his unqualified and ungrateful son, Malcolm.

Well, Lady McBeth can’t stand for that and starts instigating a plot where McBeth murders the owner and they get the restaurant for themselves. Things get complicated with a detective shows up to investigate the unusual crime. Christopher Walken is great in that role. Really pouring on the charm.

The film keeps the tone light despite the subject matter. And that’s good, because the sequence of events, if played seriously, would be preposterous. Instead, they are amusing scenes that let the onscreen talent entertain the audience.

Luckily, the on screen talent is up for the challenge. The stand-ins for the three witches (Andy Dick, Amy Smart, Timothy ‘Speed’ Levitch) are stand outs. As well as Christopher Walken and Maura Tierney. Mostly everyone else does a good job.

And that’s important, because the film itself is driven by its charm. The script isn’t particularly good and the direction is only competent. With lesser actors that would have ruined the film but in this one it is enough to make it worthwhile.

If you don’t know the story of MacBeth, you won’t get all the jokes. I knew the tale but not intimately enough to laugh at every reference. But even if I didn’t know the story, there would still have been plenty in here to amuse me.

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