In the late fifties, Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon) and Vince Collins (Colin Firth) are a top-rated comedy duo, hosts of a polio telethon. At the height of their career, everything comes crashing down when the body of a young woman is discovered in the bathtub of their hotel suite. They have cast-iron alibis, but the team is dissolved. Fifteen years later, up-and-coming journalist Karen O’Connor (Alison Lohman) lands a sweetheart deal to write a book about Vince, and he is being paid a million d…llars to agree to in-depth interview. What Karen really wants to know is what really happened to that young woman, but she also quickly becomes ensnared in the angled web of guilt shared by the two men.
Back when this hit the theatres, around the same time as David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, the Globe and Mail ran a piece comparing the two films, and arguing that Cronenberg knows how to do genre and do it well, while Atom Egoyan seems to feel above genre, and so screws it up. The point was also made that the sex in Cronenberg’s film is a lot more erotic and hard-edged, for all that it didn’t have any ratings problems, unlike this pic. I summarize this article because I couldn’t agree more. Mysteries are by their nature contrived plots loaded with coincidences, but we shouldn’t be aware of this as we watch, but the problem is that Egoyan fails to sell us on anything in his movie. Lanny and Vince are clearly modeled on Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, but Bacon, though an excellent performer, just doesn’t do wacky. Lohman is completely unbelievable as a journalist (I know this period is the era of the New Journalism and all, but would any professional really show up to interview a subject dressed as she is here?). And the much discussed NC-17 sex not only is no more groundbreaking than a typical Zalman King movie, it also LOOKS like Zalman King sex. But given that Egoyan made his incest scene in The Sweet Hereafter resemble an 80’s rock video (complete with a zillion candles on hay bales), this shouldn’t be too surprising. For all that, the film is never less than interesting and is very nicely shot. But it is very much less than it thinks it is.
The sound is very big and enveloping. The score is sweeping and has the volume level is nice and high. The environmental effects are very strong, placing the viewer very much in the world of the film. So whether the background sound involves audience applause, rain or win and surf, the result is a very immersive experience. The dialogue is clear and undistorted, and is never overwhelmed by the music or FX. Great stuff all around.
I was initially put off by what appeared to be a surprising level of grain in the opening scenes (surprising, I should add, in that it was visible at all – it was still far from severe). But very quickly it seemed to be that the scenes set in the 50’s are deliberately a bit softer than those in the 70’s. Overall, then, the image is extremely sharp, and there are no edge enhancement problems. The colours are very strong (sumptuous, even), and the contrasts and blacks are simply terrific.
Not much here. There is one primary deleted scene (“The Father Theme”) and a montage of other deleted moments. There making-of featurette is nothing more than just under six minutes of behind-the-scenes footage. There are also seven trailers, but none of the feature itself. The menu is basic.
Does it work? No. Is it a fascinating viewing experience? Yes. Looks and sounds nice, too.
Special Features List
- Deleted Scenes
- Behind-the-Scenes Footage