Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

"Who's Afriad of Virginia Woolf?" concerns the after dinner party that you never want to go to. Its host and hostess have no problem letting their guests see the strife in the marriage and they frequently scream at each other. In between the hundreds of glasses of alcohol that the foursome consume, there is time for surprising sexual innuendoes and many sideways glances.
The movie is about Martha and George (Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton) and their incredibly twisted marriage. What starts out as a little abnormal turns into a freak-show...this couple is probably insane.
After a late night of partying, they invite Nick and Honey (George Segal and Sandy Dennis) over because Martha's father (who just happens to be George's boss) thinks the two couples should get to know each other better. As cynical and intelligent as George is, Martha is equal his mental strength and twice as loud. She is a cruel woman, one who wants, and usually gets things done her way. But of the two of them, George is the crueler one, he bides his time and waits for just the right time to maximize the pain of the things he says.
It's late in the night, already the next morning, and while the couple is getting ready for bed, Martha drops the bomb on George—guess who's coming to dinner?
Slightly miffed at not getting his sleep, George decides that the best way to tolerate the evening is to get smashed and get everyone else roaring drunk too. After the first few drinks, the tongues begin to loosen and soon things that normally wouldn't be said with company present are being said many times over.
Nick is very uncomfortable by this couple's tendency to release intimate details to the ears of him and his wife. Honey, on the other hand, couldn't be happier throwing down brandy after brandy...it won't be too long before the brandy starts throwing back.
"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" is really, really good. It's a mixture of madness and empathy, manipulation and some strange cousin of love. You'll never have more fun watching crazier characters.
This is the movie, which was based off the stage play, that Aaron Sorkin has heralded as his inspiration and when you see the film a lightbulb turns on. The script is very Sorkin-esque and has many rapid fire questions answered with questions.
But the movie belongs to the actors who prove that this is an ensemble work unlike any other. Taylor and Burton famously made this movie during a period of romance between the two of them; but the disdain of the characters is so real it leaves the viewer with many questions about their relationship. Elizabeth Taylor would win Best Actress and the drunken Sandy Dennis would get a Best Supporting Actress Oscar; but it's a shame that Richard Burton didn't win for this movie. He's the heart and twisted soul of the picture. He's acerbic and sarcastic little digs are something that makes the movie. Insults pile upon threats and soon everyone is screaming and crying and doing things that no sober person would.
"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" is the movie that would lead to "Blue Velvet" and "American Beauty" and other movies about the fractured life of a "typical" household.
There is so much going on here that it would be impossible to correctly give the film its due. It inspired hundreds of films to come after it.
From the edgy script to the wickedly perfect performances "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"is a stunning directorial debut from Mike Nichols.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

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