A lot of people say The Godfather (1972) is Francis Ford Coppola’s best film, but I’d disagree. This Stream of the Week is easily the best thing he’s put out (at least for now). It’s a classic story, one that’s been told countless times, but perhaps never as visually striking, as emotionally compelling, as when Coppola was behind the camera. Winner of three Academy Awards including Best costume Design, Best Sound Editing and Best Makeup, I can only be talking about Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992).
Centuries after losing the love of his life, Dracula travels to London, where he goes on a spree of seduction, manipulation and murder. One of the first things that you’ll notice about this movie is the way it looks. Coppola refused to do anything other than practical effects, and it paid off enormously. While the film isn’t as polished as some of the CGI modern audiences are used to, these imperfections give it a kind of charm and hand-made quality that ultimately draw us farther into the world he and his team created. The hyper-stylized visuals are a real feast for the eyes, and do a lot of work in terms of building tone and expanding our experience of the setting. From the lighting to the special effects (done by Coppola’s then-twenty-year-old son, Roman), it’s maybe one of the most visually-stunning things you can hope to watch this week. The film’s amazing aesthetic also helps highlight the great work done by a fantastic cast.
Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Dracula is romantic, melancholic and tragic, showing us a side of history’s most famous monster we aren’t used to seeing. Keanu Reeves has gotten a LOT of hate for his role as Jonathan Harker, at one point even being listed on a Top 10 Worst Movie Accents list, but I actually think these characterizations are a bit unfair. While Reeves might give his usual stilted affect, and an English accent is definitely not in his wheelhouse, his performance brings a level of camp to the film that furthers our understanding of this movie as a movie, adding to the metatextual commentary on the history of film that comes into play at various points of the narrative. Plus, I’d argue his role isn’t big enough to necessarily ruin the film, or even affect our ability to enjoy it. Winona Ryder’s Mina is more central to the plot, and though her performance was also maligned by some, it was definitely a unique and, in my opinion, great casting choice. In some moments, I can’t imagine a better actress for the role. There’s also Anthony Hopkins’ Van Helsing, who’s as fantastic as you’d expect.
As I said regarding the visuals, this movie is not perfect; but then again, is perfection really something we look for when watching a movie? Should it be? At the end of the day, it’s wildly entertaining and full of emotion, romance, horror and even some dark humor. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t comment on how smart this film is, engaging with themes of gender, class and history. It’s fairly loyal to the novel (hence Stoker’s name being given prominence in the title), and I think that really served to differentiate the film from a lot of the other well-known adaptations. Easily one of the more unique watches you can hope for, there’s no reason to not stream it on Paramount+ this weekend!