Directed By: David Cronenberg
Written By: Bruce Wagner
Cinematography By: Peter Suschitzsky
Editor: Ronald Sanders
Music By: Howard Shore
Cast: John Cusack, Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams, Sarah Gadon, Carrie Fisher, Robert Pattinson, Evan Bird
The Weiss family is the archetypical Hollywood dynasty: father Stafford is an analyst and coach, who has made a fortune with his self-help manuals; mother Cristina mostly looks after the career of their son Benjie, 13, a child star. One of Stafford’s clients, Havana, is an actress who dreams of shooting a remake of the movie that made her mother, Clarice, a star in the 60s. Clarice is dead now and visions of her come to haunt Havana at night… Adding to the toxic mix, Benjie has just come off a rehab program he joined when he was 9 and his sister, Agatha, has recently been released from a sanatorium where she was treated for criminal pyromania and befriended a limo driver Jerome who is also an aspiring actor.
The films seems to seek to be some kind of wicked satire, but becomes more melodramatic and emotional.
The film feels more cruel hearted and dark then it needs to be. A kind of misery porn that remains as sexual. As it is like it’s getting off to it’s own means like it is it’s own fetish. So while the performances are good they seem to get lost amongst the background. Though it also comes across as a vicious satire of Hollywood. Taking on the unusual suspects
It should be noted in an almost 50-year career, this was the very first time that David Cronenberg ever filmed anything in the United States (his previous movies were mostly shot in Canada or the UK).
Julianne Moore while mesmerizing her character seems all over the place by design rather than naturally though not so over the top as she might have seemed in magnolia. As here she seems to know her behavior is deplorable but doesn’t care as long as no one witnesses it. As she is literally haunted throughout the film. That seems to give her an excuse. Though from all those years she has become a monster herself.
The film has a subtle exploration of child abuse at it’s heart and the results of it. While not saying it ever out loud.
While the vanities, cruelty and self centeredness runs throughout. Painting a very cynical picture. It still manages to shock in some places. Robert Pattinson is low key in his pivotal role, though more in the background he fits into the Cronenberg universe as a stock movie character for him it seems recently.
Even as each character is more crazy, damaged then the next toy so feel some sympathy. Though it comes and goes rather briskly, there is no one really to sympathize with and the closest one the film offers in the lynchpin. Mia Wasikowska, Who might also be the most deranged, but at least acknowledges and seems to be at peace with it. As the film exposes she never really had a chance for so called normalcy.
Though no matter what, As always director David Cronenberg keeps the film alive with a pulse that is both visual and in the material that never stops or really slows down as each new scene feels like a further reveal of character, past or story.
Uncovering a certain mystery where there is one. So it feels like a group session with a psychiatrist, With us as the doctor getting to the bottom of things. As the characters get lower and lower into depravity with their behavior.
The power of the film is psychological because for all the decadence. It is told and hinted at to leave a revealing imprint festering in your brain to come up with your own interpretation invented images that the film suggests rather then show. And maybe bypass and do injustice to. Luckily the film stays relatively small scale as it approaches a big scale target. Managing to be vast yet still feel personal.
Mia Wasikowska excels here as she always manages to convey a certain innocence though with sinister heart and intentions. As the film is more her playhouse and her and Moore’s showcase
The other actors are good in their roles with a surprising turn from John Cusack who seems the most natural in this films environment.
Still the film disappoints as there truly never seems to be a reason for this story. No big revelations or truths. Just exposure to the more dark side of Hollywood that never quite goes so far as to be nihilistic, but feels odd and surreal more like a book.
The film seeks to be shocking with a presentation that is more matter of factly, but it feels like little work went into it. As there seems by the end. No real reason for it. By the end it feels like an empty shell of little substance after watching such a seering performance.
It seems to act deeper then it is, maybe the presentation is off. As it might be there but isn’t explaining or communicating clearly.