I had heard good things about this movie when it came out, and how it could be compared to The Prestige. I thoroughly enjoyed The Prestige, so I thought I would check it out. However… I wasn’t too impressed.
The first issue I have, which isn’t even related to the plot, is the accents. My God. If you aren’t going to hire an actor who is actually from the place, at least hire someone who can do the accent accurately. Paul Giamatti was probably the best, though it was a bit over the top. Second (or perhaps first, depending on my mood) would be Rufus Sewell. I truly think being British allows people to have better German accents. Then everyone else just sucked, there is no third or fourth. Edward Norton (who I normally enjoy) sounded like he was unsure if he was supposed to be playing a British or German character, and I just thought Jessica Biel was straight up from England. Did they even have a voice coach? Or did all of the budget go into the music (which was arguably the best part of the film)?
|The director cut off his own pubes to paste on Norton’s face in order to increase the realism of the goatee.
Once I got past that travesty, I was distracted by another physicality – Norton’s hair. Was it really necessary to make his hair so dark? It looked completely fake, like someone had glued dog hair on his face and head. I’m sure there was a way to make it look more natural, but again, the budget must have gone to the music.
Plot-wise, I was not impressed. The grand twist ending was noticeable from a mile away to the astute viewer. For the less-astute viewer, it was probably noticeable from half a mile away. It would have been impossible to hide the body of a princess or duchess or whatever she was. The family, at the very least, would have been present for her funeral, and probably would have noticed an empty casket.
For its efforts, the film does accomplish the magical aura of a time long past. The drab scenery and dim lighting works well to convey the artsy mood. Some of the scenes, while lacking in perfection, did their job emotionally. One scene that sticks in my mind is when Giamatti’s character asks Norton why he conjures up Biel. His answer, “Just to be with her,” is both striking and haunting.
However, besides this moment, I was not convinced of the romantic connection between Norton and Biel’s characters. I didn’t feel chemistry, and I didn’t feel any character development as well. We are given no reason for why they love each other, other than the fact that they were childhood sweethearts. Getting over the fact that little-Norton was the dork from Kick Ass, haven’t they changed at all in the past fifteen years? I’m not saying I want them to go on a date, but I would have liked a little more romance before they immediately start consummating their relationship (which, in addition, would have been completely out of character for the time period). Norton seems so hollow, reserved, and “out there,” that it almost makes it impossible to see why anyone would love him. By the end of the movie, the viewer still knows almost nothing about him. For being the main character, he is isolated from us, and everything we learn comes through the eyes of Giamatti. Biel, on the other hand, is beautiful and rich – but that’s really all. There is no insight into who she is or why Norton would love her.
In the end, I would watch this movie again, for the artsy feel and the great soundtrack. But I would go into it with lower expectations. The acting and the plot just isn’t enough to invoke the emotion the movie intends to create. A valiant effort, but it simply needs more development.