Raindance Film Festival: Hello Again

Hello Again
Hello Again
Directed by Tom Gustafson
Starring Audra McDonald, Martha Plimpton, TR Knight, Rumer Willis, Sam Underwood and Cheyenne Jackson
Screening at Raindance September 24th, 30th, 2017

by Joanna Orland

La Ronde was originally a play written by Arthur Schnitzler first printed in 1900, examining sexual morals and classism through a series of encounters between character pairs. Having spawned a 1950 film and a theatrical style of the same name, the main idea of La Ronde is to portray different aspects of a character, in different situations, interacting with different characters; like a circle of two person scenes. Hello Again is a musical based on the play by Schnitzler, but with a twist.

Besides the addition of music, Hello Again alters the La Ronde style by transposing ten different stories across ten different decades. Each actor therefore plays two characters, taking some of their previous’ essence with them. Essentially a series of ten love affairs across ten decades, Hello Again feels like little more. Those not familiar with the theatrical structure of La Ronde may mistake the film for a gratuitous montage of sex scenes; to be fair, they wouldn’t be far off.

In a traditional La Ronde, each actor will play the same character in both of their scenes. By changing characters in their second scenes, actors have much less to work with in Hello Again. As a result, it’s much harder to garner empathy for them, there is not much stringing this story together, and the music is not memorable enough to be the hook.

What is positive about Hello Again is its diversity, from multiculturalism to gender and sexual fluidity. This allows the film to feel different to what we’re used to seeing on screen, with positive affirmation and many strong performances. Starting with Sam Underwood, the next key performance comes later in the film as Cheyenne Jackson is a breath of fresh air in his 1976 disco extravaganza. Audra McDonald follows, and is in a league of her own.

What is unclear in Hello Again is its point. Are these characters supposed to be past lives of the previous ones? Why are we only getting superficial glimpses into each of their lives? Is there a deeper meaning to it all? Is it merely a montage of sexual encounters across time? The bizarre ending does little to clarify any deeper meaning, but somehow makes it even more abstract and perplexing.

Outside of an exercise in adapting La Ronde, there is little purpose to Hello Again. Originally an Off-Broadway play that garnered high accolades, it falls flat as a film – not translating to the big screen, getting lost in its abstractness and lacking emotional resonance.


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