|Michael Shannon shows Ashley Judd the budget for this film.|
1) The first thing that strikes me? How Ashley Judd is not afraid to look unglamorous. Without make-up or haircare, she seems downright normal...although her behavior in the opening, near-silent first ten minutes makes it clear she's anything but.
2) The biggest problem director William Friedkin had to overcome was how to make a film that's, at its core, a one-set stage play...and it's remarkable how he chooses to keep the film vital through framing and camera movement.
3) And speaking of that framing...I find it interesting that the Jodd's Agnes and Michael Shannon's Peter are originally framed normally only for them to be framed further and further away from the center of the frame when their dementia starts taking over. It's a subtle cue, and an effective one.
|Boy, this remake of Singing in the Rain took a weird turn...|
4) You know, it's obvious right from the start that Peter is not right in the head, even when Shannon is behaving all amiable in the film's first act. But the genius of the script is that we get a big ol' heaping slice of Harry Connick's Jerry as a compare and contrast in that first act. Because Jerry is so obviously malevolent, we are tricked into overlooking Peter's obvious off-centeredness....and by the time we have to accept that yes, this is the Wrong Man for Agnes to get together with, it's too late.
5) A lot is made of the way Agnes' son disappeared while she was in the supermarket, and some unperceptive viewers might think that plot thread is discarded without any resolution...but it's not there to be resolved. It's there to further illustrate Agnes' descent into Peter's insanity, as she connects every bad thing to his conspiracy-theory-addled delusions.
6) I can understand why we get these cutaways to insects and the like, but they're not really necessary--Friedkin's direction is strong enough to carry this film without these tricks. More effective is the heliocopter cues every time our couple's mental state deteriorates.
7) Yeah, this is a psychological horror story that doesn't rely on shock effects, but as someone who had some serious dentist phobias, the sequence involving Peter and a set of pliers...shudder.
8) Boy, that last act, taking place after Peter and Agnes has covered the entire apartment with tinfoil, turns a set we're intimately familiar with by now into an alien landscape. It helps that the tinfoil casts everything in a bluish light.
|"I see you did the place up in early nutbag..."|
9) It's obvious that Brian F. O'Bryan's Dr. Sweet's fate is marked right from the start...but so good and mannered is O'Bryan's performance that you actually feel sad that he's about to be cut open by a mentally ill man.
10) If I ever had any doubt about Judd as an actress, they're gone after her monologue in the third act. Watching her very subtlely yet slowly start to weave her sad reality with threads of Peter's conspiracy-based dementia is stunning.
Overall...an interesting curiousity that manages to transcend its one-set two-character limitations through canny camera movement, framing and some excellent central performances, this may not be for those people who find the PG-13 CGI horror drivel the height of the genre...but if you have a more adventurous taste for the genre, this might be worth a watch...