A Dangerous Method – Review

A Dangerous Method (2011) 

Directed by: David Cronenberg. Written by: Christopher Hampton. Starring Michael FassbenderKeira KnightleyViggo Mortensen.

I can’t remember the last time when I have been so much in disagreement with the general critical response for a movie… Everywhere I look I seem to hear and read high praises for Cronenberg’s latest work, and yet I am willing to bet that few of those who claimed to like it so much would be ready to watch it again. As far as I am concerned I am struggling to find something positive to say (well, yes, nice costumes…) and the only reason why my vote isn’t any lower is because I am willing to admit that I might have not been in the right mood for it.

Even in his most flawed films, Cronenberg has always been an interesting director, or at least able to create not only an almost palpable atmosphere, but also a particularly defined style and vision which set him apart from the usual Hollywood crowd.

And yet this one seems a film with no direction whatsoever. Not only each sequence felt random and inconsequential as if not necessarily edited in the right order, without any real feeling of natural progression from the previous one into the next, but also it was all so static and lifeless that sometimes I even wondered whether anyone was actually directing at all. At no point I felt any sympathy for any of the character: in fact, not only I did not like any of them, but I didn’t even hate them either. I just didn’t care.

And this is is a rather strange thing to say, because on paper, a film about the relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud (and consequently the birth of psychoanalysis) sounded to me very intriguing indeed. Sadly, pretty earlier on into “A dangerous Method” I realised that this wasn’t really the type of film I was hoping to see.

I found myself uneasy right from the word “go”, that is from the moment I saw Keira Knightley overacting like never before and stretching her chin to new unbelievable levels, as if screaming to the audience “I want that Oscar!!”. Well, darling, not this time.

Then, after the early screams, it all calmed down a bit and the dialogue started… and that’s when it got worse! For a film which should rely on words more than action itself (especially given the static nature of it all), I found the script absolutely puerile. It all felt like it was written by a high school kid, who’s just heard a few things about Freud and wants to impress his friend with his newly acquired knowledge. I mean, there are actually lines like “You Freud, have always sex in your mind. Why does everything always has to do with sex?”!  Really? Mr Hampton, who are you writing this script for? Surely your target audience doesn’t need things spell out so boldly and blatantly.

It was like reading a checklist of all the possible clichés one could think about psychoanalysis (and Freud in particular). Who is this film for anyway? At times it felt like it was so ridiculously basic, as if it was written for people who have never even heard of Freud and Jung. Other times it was all so ridden with heavy handed quotes and so “up its own self” that it felt like watching some boring lecture given by an even more bored teacher, sitting on your old desk back in school. From such a renowned scriptwriter (he wrote Dangerous Liaisons and Atonement among the other things) I was expecting a lot more: maybe Mr Hampton should watch a few episodes of HBO’s classy “In Treatment” to learn a thing of two about the subtlety of bringing psychoanalysis to the screen.

As far as the two leading male actors (Fassbender and Mortensen, who by the way was so good in both Cronenberg “A History of Violence” and “Eastern Promises”), they were as good as they could possibly be, but in the end they both failed to impress, move, or even raise any sort of emotion beyond boredom. But then again, that’s hardly surprising given both the script they were actually given and a clear lack of any direction, which forced them to talk at each other in the most contrived scenes and badly staged, where even the extras in the background seemed fake and moved slowly and gently like… erm…well, extras (particularly noticeable in the scene by the river).

Sorry David, not this time for me.

5/10

The Kids Are All Right – Review

The kids are all right

The Kids Are All Right  (7/10)

USA 2010 – Directed by Lisa Cholodenko. With Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson

This is one of those film that walks the fine line between comedy and drama and for most of its length succeeds in doing so pretty well. It’s not going to be on anybody’s list as a top favorite film of the year, but it certainly does a good job in being honest and to be fair it always manages to avoid falling into that cheesy Hollywood swimming pool of clichés.

What really elevates this film to something above your usual average comedy is the tight and fresh script with particular attention to details, but more than anything the acting of every single character in the film. Annette Bening will probably get her nomination once again for this: the moment when she (SPOILER ALERT!!) finds out about the betrayal of her partner and especially the moment where Julianne Moore apologizes to her and her kids, is probably one of the finest moment in her acting career. Julianne Moore is good too, but then again this doesn’t really surprise me anymore (nor it surprises me to see her taking her clothes off once again!). Mark Ruffalo manages to portray a character who full of flaws and acts badly as sympathetic and likeable. Even the two kids are very very good. The are given a proper script through which they can actually act their age instead of having to stick to unbelievable characters (like in June for example, which I did like, but it was all a bit unreal). Mia Wasikowska had already shown she could act in the beautiful “In treatment” on TV. I truly hope she’ll be able to do a lot more in the future.

The film is about an unusual family in an unusual situation and yet behaving in the most usual way. Even though the couple is a lesbian couple, the film doesn’t really linger on that too much. In fact it could probably work just as well if the couple had been a non-gay one. I didn’t find it offensive or exploitive (maybe because the director is actually gay herself and she’s willing to play with the clichés without making it all about them. It’s all about the characters and the details.

This is a very gentle film, about family values and emotions. though it might not have any stand out laugh out loud moments it certainly manages to keep a smile on your face pretty much for its entirety and I have to confess, by the end of it I even found myself shedding a few tears here and there.

7/10

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