"Tempest," freely adapted from Shakespeare, opens unscreened in the Washington area this weekend. It's a contemporary story about a middle-age architect (John Cassavetes) who flees a stormy Manhattan marriage for a Greek island, deserted except for a half-mad goatherd (Raul Julia). The architect's daughter (Molly Ringwald) and a folk singer (Susan Sarandon) follow him to his exile in this Aegean paradise.

The 140-minute movie, directed by Paul Mazursky, "is not much different from other Mazursky movies," writes Box Office magazine reviewer Jimmy Summers. "As usual, it could certainly use some editing (about 45 minutes' worth in this case.)" Summer did note that "Tempest" had some interesting moments despite a "herky-jerky" story line.

Vincent Canby of The New York Times said the film "must be one of the longest, most loosely constructed comedies Mr. Mazursky has made. . . Though 'Tempest' ... is supposed to take place entirely in one day, the flashbacks make that day seem endless and needlessly disjointed." Canby praised Sarandon's performance, however, calling her "a charming creature . . . often in a wet dress that looks like a thigh-length, old-fashioned undershirt."

The cast did well enough to suit Sheila Benson, who dubbed them stalwart in her review for the Los Angeles Times. The reviewer also praised the cinematography, the set design and the innovative score by Japanese composer Stomu Yamashata. But still, for Benson the film was like a "canard once offered about Switzerland by a returning traveler: 'Beautiful but dumb.' "

California magazine's Kenneth Turan wrote that the film's problem "is its pointlessness, its endless, agonizing ditherings on borrowed Shakespearean themes." Turan liked Raul Julia's "suprisingly amusing if spotty performance," but found the Cassavetes character "the most irksome of boors -- smug, edgy, abrasive and lacking any semblance of the kind of audience rapport that would make this film at least bearable." TEMPEST -- At area theaters.