"Now: In the Wings on a World Stage" follows Kevin Spacey and his fellow actors as they bring a production of "Richard III" to audiences across the world during a 10-month tour between 2011 and 2012.
It's a splendid subject for a documentary and the film mostly delivers on its promise of a behind-the-scenes look at the acting process and the mechanics of bringing Shakespeare to the masses from Qatar to San Francisco.
The movie offers snippets of what appears to have been one of Spacey's great performances and features awe-inspiring stage-perspective images of classic theaters such as Greece's Epidaurus. It is infused with a love for the medium and the craft of acting.
In another sense, however, this is a bit of a solipsistic endeavor. Often, it skews toward a travelogue, with scenes of actors bonding on a yacht in Italy and on a visit to the Great Wall of China. The message is less about the global community, or the timeless adaptability of the Bard, and more about how much fun everyone seems to be having.
A more interesting documentary would have further investigated the phenomenon of Shakespeare resonating with such diverse backgrounds. It would have examined the ways different aspects of "Richard III" played in one country compared to the next. It might have asked the audiences themselves to weigh in.
This one sticks closely to the actors, who lightly address some of these subjects but mostly speak about how great of an opportunity they've been given, how much it means to them to be on the road and what it's like to act alongside a Hollywood giant, who is, my gosh, such a nice, regular guy.
There's also something strange and even a bit contradictory about a movie that documents a theater production for posterity when one of the actors so eloquently opines on-screen that the magic of theater is its ephemeral nature.
Still, documentarian Jeremy Whelehan offers plenty for theater aficionados and Spacey fans -- there are more than ever of the latter now, thanks to "House of Cards" -- and there's no questioning the picture's motives. The arts need all the love and support they can get, after all.
Now: In the Wings on a World Stage
Documentary by Jeremy Whelehan
Featuring Kevin Spacey
Playing at IFC Center and available for download at KevinSpacey.com