Picks and Pans Review: A Midwinter's Tale

updated 02/12/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/12/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

Michael Maloney, Joan Collins

God must love actors. He made so many of them. Certainly, actors love themselves. Kenneth Branagh, for instance, is an actor; and though he serves only as the director and screenwriter of A Midwinter's Tale, his latest film is a goopy valentine to his profession. How charming one finds it will depend entirely on how charming one finds actors as a group. Give me accountants any day.

An anglicized version of all those Garland-Rooney "Hey, gang, let's put on a show" movies, Midwinter's Tale tells the story of a down-on-his-luck player (Maloney) in London who gathers together six other actors and carts them off to his provincial hometown to perform Hamlet. As this small band rehearses over the next two weeks, its various members spat, fall in love and creep toward self-knowledge. Think of Branagh's 1992 Peter's Friends replayed with neurotic thespians.

The British cast here is talented enough (and Collins is a chipper hoot as Maloney's agent). The problem is that while Branagh's characters are played as a supremely neurotic bunch, by movie's end each turns out—gee, what a surprise—to be a regular sweetheart. Sort of like throwing your custard pie but then being able to eat it too. (R)

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