Sunday, 7 November 2010
Another film set in Los Angeles depicting a dysfunctional family with an absent father figure! Oh happy day. The other half of today's members' free screening at Harbour Lights. This one is from 2002 and no doubt was chosen to sit alongside Cyrus.
Sam (Christian Bale) and Alex (Kate Beckinsale) are bright PYT's at Harvard. They jet off to LA where Sam is to undertake a residency as a Psychiatrist whilst Kate completes her Ph.D. dissertation on genomes of Fruit Flies. Gripping stuff. The plan is for them to stay at Sam's mum's place - she should be away. When they arrive, they find that she is in residence with a British rock group - she is a record producer of some repute and the house is equipped with its own studio.
The basic story is that Sam is tempted by Sarah a second year intern from Israel but worried for Alex's peace and quiet as she studies. Sam encourages Alex to find a place for them to live - near where Sarah lives. Meanwhile, Alex is gradually drawn to the drugs and sex and rock n' roll lifestyle of the house's other occupants and begins to discover a side she never knew she had.
Sam fights off the demons of his attraction to Sarah only to confront Alex in a state of undress at a party in the penthouse of a local hotel with British rock group's lead singer who is having a fling with Sam's mother. This is just at the point when Sam's mother calls a halt to a menage-a-trois but that doesn't stop Sam from jumping to conclusions and having a go at the Brit. A big punch up involving all four main characters follows which spills into the foyer of the up-market hotel. Miraculously all comes good, Sam and his mother are reconciled and the film concludes with Sam ending a call with Sarah saying he would call her right back. Inconclusive.
The only glimpse of something real and tangible is when Sam breaks professional protocol and calls in the mother of a 16 year-old patient he is treating in an attempt to offer some basic relationship support in the hope of heading off a full-scale spiral into drugs and psychotic behaviour. The rest of film deals with passions and desires that never quite as real or believable.
I felt the story was self-indulgent and never really got away from predictability and pretentiousness. Christian Bale turned in his hallmark half-whispered performance and lacked any real spark of life or conviction. A moribund performance in a moribund film. It left me feeling very frustrated. The way in which temptation was offered and faced, made sense only if Harvard and New England were devoid of temptations and a move to the state of Californication opened up endless possibilities. That Sam and Alex had progressed to the age they had and lacked the vocabulary, wit and motivation to articulate their feelings towards one another only serves to demonstrate that even PYT's don't know which side of their bread is buttered! The stereotypical portrayal of Sam's mother as the archetypal rock groupie chic and the Brit rock band as philandering pot-heads probably satisfied American box offices, but on a chilly November Sunday afternoon in Southampton UK, it left me as cold as the East wind.
I'm ever more glad that this screening was free. Don't bother going to see it - there are much better stories and performances out there.
I'll give it 5/10.
Posted by Duncan Strathie at 20:58