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Trouble in Tahiti
Trouble in Tahiti
Actors: Karl Daymond, Stephanie Novacek, Tom Randle, Toby Stafford-Allen, Mary Hegarty
Director: Tom Cairns
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Kids & Family, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2003     0hr 50min

Tom Cairns' cinematic film features a young and vibrant cast in Bernstein's chamber opera, set in the fifties. This biting satire on American suburban married life stars Stephanie Novacek as Dinah and Karl Daymond as Sam, ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Karl Daymond, Stephanie Novacek, Tom Randle, Toby Stafford-Allen, Mary Hegarty
Director: Tom Cairns
Creators: Shane Warden, David M. Jackson, Fiona Morris, Leonard Bernstein
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Kids & Family, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Love & Romance, Family Films, Classical
Studio: BBC / Opus Arte
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 02/18/2003
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2001
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 0hr 50min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: German, French, Spanish

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Movie Reviews

A brilliant performance of Bernstein's greatest theater work
R. W. Holliston | Victoria, B.C. Canada | 11/11/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I'll lay my cards on the table immediately: I think West Side Story, as affecting as it often is, is uneven and ultimately overrated. On The Town is better because Comden and Green were more mature and skilled lyricists in their late twenties than Stephen Sondheim was in his. Candide remains intermittently brilliant but somehow unfinished, rather like Tennessee William's Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, with all of its alternate endings.
All this to say that Trouble In Tahiti is a very great one-act opera and one of a handful of works of its time that asks unanswerable questions. Now, some 50 years after its creation, Trouble In Tahiti is a coruscating indictment of "The American Dream," decades ahead of its time and still appallingly relevant.
It is often entertaining, but never cheap or facile. And its ending offers not a tidy ideological package, gift-wrapped and beribboned (as West Side Story does), but a deeply disturbing question: if you've been paying attention at all, you'll find yourself asking, "Am I happy, or merely contented?"
Bernstein's masterpiece receives a performance worthy of it in this great film. Some flashy elements - too many establishing shots of Manhattan, for example - do not really detract from the fine performances of the two principals, the excellent work of the jazzy trio that serves as a Greek chorus, and the ultimate message that one can only hope, never assume.
Miss this one at your soul's peril!"
A Rediscovery: As Fresh and Timeless as Ever
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 07/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This "Trouble" is a wonderful Technicolor nightmare; an inspired and wonderful send up of the artificial wholesomeness of Suburbia. Here, the trio is more fully integrated into the opera itself, serving not only as commentators in Greek chorus fashion (as often in performance) but characters themselves.

As Dinah, Stephanie Novacek gives a blazing, almost terrifying performance of "What a movie!" - the effect not unlike having a gifted singer/storyteller encapsulate all of Elektra into 5 minutes - and managing to throw in a a "happy" ending! Positively chilling!

Karl Daymond's Sam is spot on. The gym scene "There are men" is spiked with hilarious homoeroticism (and nudity). While going through his calistehnics, the boys at the gym perform an elaborate, rhythmic, homoerotic gym routine in front, behind and all around an oblivious Sam. This "oblivious" quality speaks volumes about Sam's characters and he and Dinah's troubles.

Cairns uses a lot of symbolism and many interesting devices; flashback, video, home movies, television shows, product placements - all stylishly done and used to maximum effect. The overall feel for this viewer was similar to being "let in on the secret."

It's hard to believe Trouble in Tahiti is 50 years old!

Like many DVD's coming out lately, this short opera is padded out with some "extra" features definitely worth exploring.

Highly recommended!"
Ratty-boo, Where Are You?
A. Scott | Minneapolis, MN USA | 07/01/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)

"I had very high hopes for this version; unfortunately, they were only partially met. I'll start with what is right about it: Stephanie Novacek does a fine job as Dinah, probably about as good as we're going to get these days. (I had hoped that Judy Kaye, who did a brilliant characterization in a concert version several years ago, would have been chosen to put her interpretation on film.) But Karl Daymond, while both physically and temperamentally correct as Sam, is almost a complete disaster vocalizing the part. He is constantly under pitch, which throws Novacek (temporarily) off twice. The staging of the piece is mostly excellent, incorporating the trio into the action more frequently than expected. The scene at the gym was cute, but a little over-choreographed; it did, however, show Sam's ignorance of what goes on around him.

I also enjoyed the film clips of Suburbia, but this is where the production began to fail slightly: in one clip the trio is definitely singing about 1950s culture (such as Book-of-the-Month Club), but we are squarely facing a 1962 Chevy Impala! In another clip, the trio sings about a "family picture, second to none," with a father sitting in a Thunderbird while the mother and two kids pose around it. Nobody in the 1950s would have owned that kind of a car for a family of four! It's that lack of attention to detail that not only sends false information, but assumes that nobody will notice -- and even if they do, it's not important. I disagree: it's like saying that spelling doesn't count!

I don't know if anyone else is aware, but there is more than one musical cut in this production. The person who mentioned the missing duet at the end of what would be the first "act" is correct about it ripping all the sense out of the scene. (It also seemed odd that Dinah would have missed seeing Sam in that very small diner.) But what was just as damaging, to my mind, was the large cut made during the opening trio. The solo for the female that begins, "Ratty-boo, sofa sofarso, automobe, oughtabemoby" is supposed to be sung twice, the second time in counterpoint to a very interesting clarinet figure. This repeat of the music (and the clarinet) was completely missing. TROUBLE IN TAHITI is only 45 minutes long, and there is absolutely no reason for any cuts whatsoever.

Due to these errors in judgment I can only give this version three stars. Stick with the 1975 version starring Nancy Williams, Julian Patrick and conducted by Bernstein, also on DVD. It's a little on the polite side and the animation is a bit over the top. It is, however, beautifully sung. Better yet, see if you can unearth the original 1952 television broadcast with the Brandeis University cast of Beverly Wolff and David Atkinson. It's only available through private sources on videotape, and is in glorious black and white -- but this is the version that will really open your eyes about this piece."
Dizzy disconnect
Cory | Virginia | 02/23/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)

"What probably started as great ideas for a Trouble in Tahiti film ultimately flopped, as the criss-cross of scene design, snippets of 50s stereotypes, flashes of era paraphernalia, some wild playing with colors, choreography, and, lastly, opera turned into an aggregated hodgepodge.

The problems start at the beginning, when processing a bombardment of short video clips of 50s lifestyle and then quickly switching over to the inside of the little white house where the transition to singing is made clumsily, and the realization that the two main characters are singing never leaves you throughout the opera, which is a fatal flaw.

Many of the scenes are clumsy or not well-thought out. Cliché gestures are at a minimum, and each movement must have been well thought out, but the visual component does not lend to forward movement or suspense. It's just panning and zooming. Most duets are sung with one person on the screen and another off, which is frustrating as you'd like to see both.

A quick review of the scenes.

House scene is fair to poor, though the brief clip of the boy watching TV and hearing his parents argue worked well.

Office scene is one of the better ones: well choreographed, good interaction between Sam and the trio.

Psych's office is poor, with no action or any connection to the story Dinah is singing, and a couple confusing interruptions, one somehow vaguely related to the story, and the other a dizzy confrontation between Sam and the secretary, which leaves one more confused about whom Dinah is singing. I thought I had understood this scene after enjoying recordings of this opera and performing as Sam in an amateur production once, but now I was confused again.

Diner scene is poor. Why did they cut half the duet? Why? Why? Why? So much for climax. Just as I thought the scene was going somewhere, BOOM!, you're back with the trio again. A very unpleasant interruption.

The gym scene is likely the best. Well choreographed dancers with engaging actions, creative casting and gestures, and visual connection with the scene and Sam. However, I really didn't want to see all those butts in the shower. Maybe that's the reason this DVD is unrated...

The movie scene is the poorest. Dinah marches out of the movie theater at the beginning, which could have had potential for her to go shopping or hit the town like is written in the music score, but no: she spends the rest of the time singing drunk in her house. Terrible disconnect between action and music/storyline.

The final scene was going well, good connection between acting, scenery, storyline, and music, until both of them stopped lip-synching and the singing continued. Reminded, once again, of the fatal opera flaw: yes, they are singing.

Trouble in Tahiti was worth one watch, but will not be a DVD I return to. The CDs and my imagination will suffice just fine.

There are also two short talks about Bernstein, which are informative, and are good reminders about how great this small little opera really is.

If you're new to Trouble in Tahiti, get a CD version first, and if you like it well enough, you might consider buying this DVD.

So, now we await for a definitive production of this short opera. Perhaps next time it can be paired with another one-act American opera: Beeson's Hello Out There or William Schuman's A Question of Taste would both be good compliments, though both pale in comparison to Trouble in Tahiti's ingenuity. Or Theodore Chanler's Pot of Fat, which deals, in a lighter way, with trouble between husband and wife (cat and mouse)."