In one shot the movie literally casts Felicia Montealegre Bernstein, the maestro’s wife, in the shadow of the exuberant conductor. It leaps directly from the couple’s courtship, when Felicia declares to “Lenny,” “I know exactly who you are,” to a dozen years later, when the state of things for her is more like “I absolutely can’t stand who you are.” (Among the things Bernstein is: gay, or bisexual, and philandering.) Of course, the movie fleshes things out a little better than that, only just in time for the couple to face what will be its ultimate challenge of devotion. In this respect the movie has a thematic affinity with “Ferrari.” But in that film the marital antagonists are played by performers perfectly matched. Here, Carey Mulligan, playing against director Cooper’s Bernstein, pretty much acts her co-star off the screen, as a colleague put it. Cooper does his level best, God knows, but never inhabits the role. It plays as a tribute, which it arguably is, but it needed to be more.
William Friedkin died just last month at the age of 87. His final film, “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial,” the umpteenth adaptation of Herman Wouk’s novel-turned-stage-play, takes on not the book but the stage work. Unlike the 1954 film “The Caine Mutiny,” which has that monumental Bogart performance, this movie has no scenes on the Caine itself as it endures a failure of command during a cyclone. No, Friedkin, whatever his reason, stuck to the play. The movie has exactly three locations: a Navy courtroom, the hallway outside the courtroom, and a hotel room that’s the scene of a party after the trial.
It’s a pretty terrific sit even if you’re familiar with the other versions. Just as Hitchcock frequently told cinema stories under self-imposed restraint (think of “Lifeboat,” “Rear Window,” “Rope”), here Friedkin resolves not to try to “open up” a stage work but to keep it crackling with basic but sophisticatedly deployed film language. Camera placement and movement, cutting, that sort of thing. The director himself did a rewrite of the play to bring it into the 21st century: here the Caine is a mine sweeper in the Gulf of Hormuz.