Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1966)


A quiet, romantic film for the whole family
A quiet, romantic film for the whole family

Genre: Drama

Starring: Elizabeth Taylor (GiantCat on a Hot Tin Roof), Richard Burton (EquusWhere Eagles Dare)

Directed By: Mike Nichols (The GraduateRegarding Henry)

Overview: An old bitter married couple have some new guests over late at night. As the liquor flows, the mind games escalate to ugly proportions.

Well if it's one thing people know about me, it's that I don't tend to contain my opinion, even if it isn't completely done forming itself in my mind. Whether it be telling people how they should live or merely trying to get my way, this Vituperatem is a natural progression of that judging streak, but kids, I don't have nuthin' on the high drama that is Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

"'Cuckold', why THAT'S a funny word!"
"'Cuckold', why THAT'S a funny word!"

There are so many great things about Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and the first one is that I don't need to convince you of this film's greatness with the flourish of words. We'll begin with cold, hard facts - 5 Oscars:

Best Actress in a Leading Role - Elizabeth Taylor

Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Sandy Dennis

Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White -
Richard Sylbert, George James Hopkins

Best Cinematography, Black-and-White - Haskell Wexler

Best Costume Design, Black-and-White - Irene Sharaff

The film was also nominated for best Editing, Music, Sound, Writing, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director and Best Picture.

Pretty solid weight to begin an argument, but for those of you who don't take much stock in awards, let me touch on the story. We begin with an older couple, getting home late from a party. They spit jovial barbs at one another, just enough to let you know that the joy is there, but on shaky ground, while getting the impression that this has been going on for quite a while.

Martha reminds George that they invited the new blood that they met earlier tonight over for a post-party nightcap. George tells Martha to behave. Martha thumbs her nose at him, then the happy young couple arrives just in time to watch the friendly barbs turn sour. Alcohol is consumed by all in a grand Roman orgy-esque fashion and what should be the first meeting between an established Professor in the History Department and the new Professor of Biology and their wives turns into a grand unearthing of neuroses, troubled pasts and scandalous secrets.

The mood, my friends, is a sobering, constant awkward ever escalating into what we can only presume is going to be more tragic the longer we wait.

Originally this was a one-scene play, set in a living room. It's refreshing to see the screenplay expanded out of the one room setting, but never so much to detract from the focus that is human flaws tilled like fresh soil exposing everyone's last nerve right until the very end.

I would suggest the ideal way to see this is with a new couple you only met once, that you really don't have many nice things to say about. That way you can maximize the effect these people have on you. What a wonderful lesson in the effects of alcohol, suburban life and human frailty.

Moments of quiet intensity, subtle reminders that there just MIGHT be something wrong.
Moments of quiet intensity, subtle reminders that there just MIGHT be something wrong.

Overall Rating: 88% (Don't Fear the Taylor)

I just love this film's tagline: You are cordially invited to George and Martha's for an evening of fun and games. Yeah, that about sums it up just right...

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There's also the Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? drinking game that involves you picking a character and trying to drink as much as they do on screen.

Apparently, you'll die.

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