February 8, 2002
Scotland, PA sounds like an intriguing film on paper. An update of Macbeth set in the early '70s and played for laughs, it tells the tale of Norm Duncan (James Rebhorn), a successful fast-food magnate who is struggling to repeat the success of his first sandwich shop. He shuns the ideas of his loyal, long-time employee, Joe McBeth (James LeGros), and ultimately passes over McBeth for a promotion to manager in favor of his loser son, Malcolm (Tom Guiry). Fed up with her husband's treatment and their poor-white-trash life, Pat McBeth (Maura Tierney) urges him to do away with Duncan, steal Duncan's idea for a drive-up window and open his own fast-food place. The plan succeeds, but the pair is haunted by their deeds and by the detective investigating Duncan's death, Lt. Ernie McDuff (Christopher Walken).
I believe it was Noel Coward who said satire is what closes on Saturday night. It's not an easy sell, and for a film like this to work, the director and cast have to be willing to commit whole-heartedly to the concept, going over-the-top when need be. Early reports would indicate that the commitment just isn't quite there for this one, at least not for the entire film. Scotland, PA premiered at the Sundance Festival in January, 2001, and is only now being scheduled for a limited release in January, 2002; not the best sign of studio or distributor confidence.
Coming from several unknown production companies, and with an unknown distributor, Lot 47 Films, it's highly unlikely this black comedy will be a breakout success. The more realistic scenario is it will play in art houses for a while, and then quietly fade away; how long it remains in theaters will depend largely on word-of-mouth and a studio ad push, especially if the reviews and word-of-mouth are good. (Stephanie Star Smith/BOP)