Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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South Pacific

It was over fifty years ago that James Michener wrote Tales of the South Pacific. It was fifty years ago that Michener’s play was first made into a movie. And now, Richard Pearce directs his own version of the critically acclaimed novel. Pearce’s musical adaptation of the book and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s play is impeccable. A wonderful cast, beautiful music, and a stunning setting, come together to create a great film portraying the hardships and tensions of life at war and away from home.
One thing that makes the movie so enjoyable is the great transition from the text to film. For someone who has read Michener’s book, they will be greatly pleased to find Glenn Close playing the part of Nellie and Harry Connick Jr. playing the part of Lt. Cable. The casting is great because the actors portray the characters from the book very accurately. We surely get the impression of Nellie as a Midwestern girl longing to see the outside world. And we most certainly see Lt. Cable as the physically strong yet emotionally weak persona, who is conflicted with his relationship with a dark-skinned girl. Robert Pastorelli must also be given credit for very successfully playing the role of Luther Billis. Always walking with his shirt opened, and revealing the tattoos on his body, Pastorelli personified Billis’s relaxed, open-minded and conniving nature very well.
Of course, a good cast would probably not be so good in a movie with a poor setting. So of course, Pearce created the most beautiful places for his plot to unfold. The same way as one reads Michener’s novel and imagines the serene blue ocean, palm trees swaying in the breeze, and white sand beaches, one can marvel at these gorgeous live illustrations in the motion picture as well. You get the feeling that you are actually in the South Pacific alongside the characters.
To add to the mood, which the setting creates, the music also touches the soul. Pearce chose to make his rendition of South Pacific into a musical, and in this feat, he placed some great songs. Songs such as “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” and “I’m In Love With A Wonderful Guy”, make this film truly energetic, lively, and fun to watch. Along with jumpy tunes accompanied by dances, the film also does a good job by creating a traumatic and war-like effect as well. The movie is essentially about war, and Pearce does a great job at conveying this theme as well.
Richard Pearce really shows his talent as a director in this musical rendition of South Pacific. The film brilliantly captures the feelings and emotions of the novel, and translates them into motion picture. A distinguished cast, great music, and well-crafted script make this thing work. South Pacific is a great success.