xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
"A Master Builder" is the last cinematic collaboration from theater veterans Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn. While that may not seem like a big deal to most people, there are some movie lovers out there who will respond to that news with the kind of giddiness that a fanboy might feel toward a new "Star Wars" movie. After all, their first project was "My Dinner with Andre," the 1981 film collaboration with filmmaker Louis Malle chronicling a long dinner conversation between the two that became a surprise art-house hit, helped to jump-start the then-embryonic American independent film movement and inspired one of the funniest throwaway jokes on "The Simpsons" and one of the most inspired episodes of "Community." In 1994, they followed that up by reuniting with Malle for what would prove to be the director's final film, the equally astounding "Vanya on 42nd Street," a powerful screen version of an adaptation of Chekov's "Uncle Vanya" that they had been rehearsing in a run-down church with a group of actors for years.
For their latest project, Gregory and Shawn have chosen to to take another play that they have been working on for over 14 years—a production of Henrik Ibsen's "The Master Builder" adapted by Shawn and staged by Gregory—and bring it to the screen. This may not sound like the most potentially cinematic of concepts but if anyone could possibly pull it off, it is these guys. However, the third time is not quite the charm as this effort never quite manages to pull off the trick of presenting such difficult material in the exciting manner of their previous efforts and it is only through the considerable efforts of the lead actors that it ultimately becomes something worth watching.
Shawn stars as Halvard Solness, a famed architect who, despite his advancing years and growing lack of interest in pursuing his craft, is nevertheless unwilling to cede control of any aspect of his professional or personal lives. Having successfully usurped his mentor, Brovik (Gregory), during the early part of his career, Solness is wary of having the same thing happen to him, and, despite recognizing the talent of his assistant, Ragnar (Jeff Biegl), who is Brovik's son, he refuses to let the younger man strike out on his own and has even gone so far to employ the younger man's fiancee, Kaya (Emily McDonnell), as his bookkeeper and mistress as a way of keeping him close by. At home, he is equally cruel to his wife, Aline (Julie Hagerty), who has been in a state of mourning since the loss of their twin sons years ago when they were mere infants.
Things begin to abruptly change with the arrival of Hilde (Lisa Joyce), a mysterious young woman of about 22 who is the daughter of an old acquaintance and who needs a place to stay for the evening. It is soon revealed that she and Solness met a decade earlier when he designed a great tower in her town and where he may have acted improperly towards the then 12-year-old girl at a party at her house. At the very least, he made a promise that he would return for her in 10 years to claim her as his princess. Now the 10 years are up but has she really turned up in response to an off-hand promise that Solness doesn't even remember making or is there something more sinister behind her sudden appearance?