Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Monkey Movie Report

This film was Francis Ford Coppola's feature length directorial debut and it's full of artsy shots, weird camera angles, and modern jarring music. It's also not bad but it's not very good either.

The film starts out with a man and a woman walking down a dock and getting into a boat. You can tell right away he's one of those henpecked movie husbands who is about to die at the hands of his super sexy scheming wife (played by the wildly sexy Luana Anders). They set out in the row boat and after it's made clear that the wife will scheme her way into getting her hands on the family fortune, the husband drops dead. She then tosses his body in the water and miracle of miracles, it sinks, it doesn't float. She then forges a letter telling his mother that he's been called away on business. After slipping the letter under the mother's door she tosses his suitcase and the typewriter in the same pond she dumped his body in.

The next day we find out the action is taking place at Castle Haloran in Ireland, but it's an Ireland where hardly anybody speaks with an Irish accent, in fact only men wearing hats and the woman who runs the pub speak with anything close to resembling an Irish accent. We also find out that the family, the mother, her other two sons, the scheming daughter in law, and the fiancee of one of the sons, have all gathered at the castle to get to know one another while the immediate family, the mother and her living sons, are going to have a private ceremony for the long dead last child, a girl named Kathleen.

Everybody with any connection to the castle sees that the family isn't right and things are downright weird. The youngest son who was playing with his sister when she fell into the pond and drowned has bad dreams and mopes around when he's there. The older son, a sculptor, and a bad one at that, tries to look moody and sexy while trying to scare his sister in law and cop a feel off his fiancee when he can get a minute or two alone with her. The mother has a breakdown at the grave of her dead daughter, as the younger son said she would, and her doctor comes to treat her and the rest of the family.

By the end of the film the scheming daughter in law has gotten hers, one of the Irish guys in a hat gets his head chopped off, they didn't come out and say it but I'm pretty sure he gets murdered because of his heinous fake accent. The mother has yet another breakdown. And the oldest son marries his fiancee and he tries to consummate their marital love by bedding his lovely wife on a pile of artfully arranged hay that looked so full of dust and allergens that I started to sneeze in sympathy for the actress who had to do that scene on top of that shit.

I'm sure when this film came out it was shocking and different. After all, it does feature an axe murderer and scheming women. But even overlooking some of the sillier stuff that bogs the film down, it really isn't very scary at all. Coppola tried to pack the film with red herrings that were simply not believable and modern 'scary' music that was a cross between the Twilight Zone theme and the theme from Psycho. He tried to rely on gimmicks rather than story, at one point they drain the pond and there's not trace of the typewriter, the dead husband's suitcase, or his body.

Of all the performances Luana Anders's stands out. She graces the screen with a burning sexiness that is riveting to see. She stole every scene she was in and after her character got killed much of the air went out of the story. I should have turned it off after she bought the farm.

There were quite a few performances I hated in this film and chief among them was the one given by Patrick Magee as the doctor who treats the mother, Lady Haloran. Magee runs, or should I say skulks around acting smug and above it all and when his character tries to connect others, either with the fiancee or the troubled younger brother, he comes off as a condescending asshole. His accent was also a sore spot with me, it was neither Irish nor British, it was some kind of weird quasi European accent that grated on my nerves so much so that I wanted to jump into the film so I could throttle him for using it. Eithne Dunne as Lady Haloran was also simply not believable, her attempt at portraying a psychologically fragile character came off as laughably funny.

The only way I can recommend this film is if you're a fan of Coppola's work and you're on a mission to see all of the features he's directed or if you want to see what horror movies used to be like. Or if you want to learn to worship at the altar of uber sexy Luana Anders, then this film is for you. Otherwise, it's not worth it, the whole thing is kind of dull, labored, and artlessly overwrought.

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