Insignificance | Chicago Reader

Insignificance

Nicolas Roeg's 1985 film adaptation of Terry Johnson's fanciful, satirical play—about Marilyn Monroe (Theresa Russell), Albert Einstein (Michael Emil), Joe DiMaggio (Gary Busey), and Senator Joseph McCarthy (Tony Curtis) converging in New York City in 1954—has many detractors, but approached with the proper spirit, you may find it delightful and thought-provoking. The lead actors are all wonderful, but the key to the conceit involves not what the characters were actually like but their cliched media images, which the film essentially honors and builds upon. The Monroe-Einstein connection isn't completely contrived. Monroe once expressed a sexual interest in him to Shelley Winters, and a signed photograph of Einstein was among her possessions when she died. But the film is less interested in literal history than in the various fantasies that these figures stimulate in our minds, and Roeg's scattershot technique mixes the various elements into a very volatile cocktail—sexy, outrageous, and compulsively watchable. It's a very English view of pop Americana, but an endearing one.

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