The Gambler (1999) New Releases THE GAMBLER (Independent Artists, 97 mins., R) The feral, cougar-eyed actor Michael Gambon plays Fyodor Dostoyevsky -- after Shakespeare, the premier literary trailblazer… R Michael Gambon Jodhi May
Movie Review

The Gambler (1999)

MPAA Rating: R
EW's GRADE
C

Details Rated: R; With: Michael Gambon and Jodhi May

New Releases

THE GAMBLER (Independent Artists, 97 mins., R) The feral, cougar-eyed actor Michael Gambon plays Fyodor Dostoyevsky -- after Shakespeare, the premier literary trailblazer of the modern mind -- and the staggering folly of Karoly Makk's film is that it lays out his art and his life and comprehends almost nothing of either. Gambon does proficient rumpled-genius shtick, but he's too refined to evoke Dostoyevsky's recklessness -- the lust for extremes, for catharsis in self-destruction. Set in 1866, the movie follows the mad creative binge during which the author, facing a deadline of just 27 days, wrote The Gambler with the assistance of Anna (Jodhi May), the 20-year-old stenographer who would become his assistant, muse, and, finally, his wife. What's lost in this stuffed-and-mounted production is the passion for life as gambling -- never more so than when the film cuts to dramatizations of the novel itself, which play like remainders from the Merchant Ivory boutique: existentialism made tidy. C

Originally posted Aug 20, 1999 Published in issue #499-500 Aug 20, 1999 Order article reprints