In Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Michael Keaton gives a performance that simultaneously works as a selling vehicle for the late short-story author Raymond Carver and conveys a certain surrealism against a backdrop of seedy reality. The film, directed as well as co-written by Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, Babel) tells the story of Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) who turned his back on a lucrative career in a film franchise about a feathered superhero. The underlying theme in the film deals with Riggan’s self obsession and his mental state is shown by the Birdman character talking to the actor when they are alone.
Bill Murray in St. Vincent gives an Oscar worthy performance in a comedy that makes one think and in at least two places in the film cry buckets of those hot schmaltzy tears which are guaranteed to embarrass the men in the audience. The tears are a real surprise as the film plays its comedic moments so well that when the plot takes a shift in direction the audience is caught flat footed and these sentimental moments hit all the harder because of it.
The 2011 film Dream House was a pleasant surprise. I had no real intention of watching the film as the marketing on it left a lot to be desired. But as it was on Sky Movies I decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did. It turned into a pleasant surprise, despite the somewhat jumbled editing and plot holes.
Directed by Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father) and starring Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts, Rachel Weisz, the film is a psychological thriller that was marketed as a horror film. The film, when released got almost universally panned by critics. Although that does seem to be the modus operandi when films are not pre-screened for critics.
The other problem the film encountered was that Jim Sheridan had major problems with the producers Morgan Creek Productions. Morgan Creek took the film away from the director and did their own final cut on the film. Sheridan then attempted to have his name removed from the production. Two of the film’s stars, Craig and Weisz, also refused to do any publicity for the film.
Daniel Craig was completely disgusted by the final product. But in interviews after the fact revealed that while he did not like the finished film, he did meet his future wife Rachel Weisz so it was “a fair trade.”
The film follows Will Atenton (Craig) who has quit his desk job and is going to write a book. He has a leaving party and goes to his new home away from the city and starts his new job as novelist. His family consists of wife Libby (Weisz), and their two daughters Trish and DeeDee.
The small family seem to have an almost idyllic life until they start being threatened by someone who is watching their every move and the local police will not help them. Apart from a reluctantly helpful neighbour, Ann Patterson (Watts), no one in the small town is on their side.
Will decides he must help his family alone and he learns that the house his perfect family live in was the scene of a gruesome murder.
The story moves on quite well and the pacing, though uneven, is still on-par for the genre. Despite the director’s unhappiness with the final product, it is overall a very satisfactory film. Dream House, for all its negative reviews is a pleasant surprise. The plot twists, when they appeared were genuinely surprising and by the end of the film, I almost had a tear in my eye.
It would have been nice to see the film that Sheridan, Craig and Weisz had imagined. It is not unusual for producers to snatch a film from a director after disagreements arise. In this case you are left wondering just how powerful the original vision must have been.
All the actors do a brilliant job in the film. Craig proved, once again, that he is not just a “Bond” one-trick pony. He had shown his acting chops well before he took on 007 and it was nice to see those chops reaffirmed. Weisz is as usual a pleasure to watch, she always brings a huge degree of believability to any role she undertakes.
Naomi Watts does her standard good job as the neighbour who knows much more than she lets on. Honourable mentions have to go to Elias Koteas and Martin Csokas as the film’s two “boogie-men.”
The film looked brilliant in terms of cinematography and set design. The switching between the “dream house” and its uglier more derelict appearance was done masterfully and with just enough of a seam to show how the character’s were seeing it.
Plot holes and dangling storyline were not a huge issue, although the actual plot device had been done before, most notably in Jim Carrey‘s The Number 23. But Dream House was, overall, a pleasant surprise and well worth the time spent watching it. I was suitably impressed, despite the film’s troubled beginnings. I’d give it a four out of five stars for entertainment.
11 September, 2013
- Daniel Craig and wife Rachel Weisz ban gadgets in the bedroom for healthy marriage (metro.co.uk)
- In Review: Dream House needs some remodeling (belowzeroaboveinfinity.com)
- Movie Review: Dream House (2011) (gamesbrainsandheadbanging.com)