"Imagination can't create anything new, can it? It only recycles bits and pieces from the world and reassembles them into visions.... So when we think we've escaped the unbearable ordinariness and, well, untruthfulness of our lives, it's really only the same old ordinariness and falseness rearranged into the appearance of novelty and truth. Nothing unknown is knowable.... The world. Finite...."
I saw both parts of Angels in America twice on Broadway, and again on tour when I was living in Boston. The New York production was nearly perfect, with a nearly perfect cast, so despite all the great press and my faith that the script could withstand anything and the wonderfulness of all the actors involved, I was a little nervous about the HBO film.
Of course, I needn't have been. There's not really anything I can say that hasn't already been said by every critic in America, so I won't kvell too much here. If I have any real criticism it's that there were a couple of directorial touches that seemed to bog the pace down in order to remind us that we were watching a film, not a play. I didn't think it was necessary. At no point did the talky scenes seem static to me, yet occasionally there'd be weird shots of the cosmos or camera tricks. Pretty, but superfluous in my opinion.
But hey, I'm talking about maybe one minute in a three hour film, so why quibble? And some of the more cinematic gestures were utterly perfect. I actually got a lump in my throat before a line of dialogue was even spoken. Bethesda Terrace has been my favorite spot in New York City since I was a kid, and seeing Angels on stage and learning the story of the Angel of the Waters only made me love it more. The shot of the fountain in the opening sequence of the movie broke my heart a little...in a good way.
It's been a long time, I think, since television has done something really Good. I mean Good in the larger sense, not just quality work. Bringing a play like Angels to a mass audience is definitely Good. Great, even. The Messenger Has Arrived. Who knew she would actually take the form of HBO?