Hello Again (NR)

Drama 105 min. November 8, 2017
By Alan Scherstuhl
Much of the thrill of big-ticket theater comes from the simple truth of presence: You in the audience are watching the best in the world do what they do right there in front of you, in real time. In an intimate moment, you can sense or even share their metabolism, the physical fact that they're taking in the same air that you're breathing but making so much more of it.

So of course the new film version of Michael John LaChiusa's celebrated 1994 hookup musical Hello Again loses something in its translation from the stage. (LaChiusa's despairing-erotic roundelays were inspired by Arthur Schnitzler's 1897 play La Ronde.) Yes, the film features some of the best that there are, including six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald, but don't expect any of that urgent live intimacy, even in this most intimate of shows. Built around a series of 10 couplings, admirably varied and each set in a different decade of the 20th century, Hello Again tasks its cast with impassioned miming of a panoply of sex acts, the singers conjugating each other like verbs in foreign language class. But rather than bring us closer, the techniques of moviemaking distance us, no matter how the camera presses in. The cutting here is quick, the singing prerecorded, the performers' metabolism shut off from ours. We don't share the moments.

As a sort of keepsake or introduction to LaChiusa's show, Gustafson's film has its value. The cast (featuring Martha Plimpton, Cheyenne Jackson and the superb Jenna Ushkowitz) is strong, and LaChiusa's score -- its stirring evocations of lust and loneliness and fleeting connection -- is well played and sung.
Tom Gustafson Audra McDonald, Cheyenne Jackson, Martha Plimpton, Rumer Willis Cory Krueckeberg, Michael John LaChiusa Screen Vision Media

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