Tag: sarah gadon

Enemy


Enemy (2013)
★ / ★★★★

Sitting in the faculty lounge, a colleague (Joshua Peace) asks Adam (Jake Gyllenhaal), a history professor, if he likes going to the movies. The question leads to gloomy Adam being given a recommendation, a film called “Where There’s a Will There’s a Way,” and he later goes to rent it, hoping that a light movie will cheer him up. After having seen it, he goes to bed. There is something about it that he found intriguing. So he turns on the laptop, jumps to a particular scene, and watches it closely. He hits the pause button. There is a man there, playing a bellhop, who looks exactly like him.

Based on the novel by José Saramago and adapted to the screen by Javier Gullón, “Enemy” is an ambitious picture about a man who finds his double but it is a big disappointment because it has very little output. Its laziest attribute is relying on enigmatic images—a giant spider hovering over the city, visions or memories bleeding into one another, an underground sex show—to try to keep our attention. It promises but never delivers on an intellectual, emotional, or psychological level. Thus, despite its short running time of ninety minutes, it is an experience to be endured.

What is the first thing you do when you find evidence that there is another you out there? You tell other people—your friends, your family, your partner. But not Adam. He continues to sulk in his dark apartment and tries to convince himself that what is happening is really not. This makes him boring and difficult to relate with. He is supposed to be our compass throughout the increasingly surreal and bizarre experience, but the material fails to make him accessible. This is a critical miscalculation.

The contrast between Adam and his double offers nothing new. We expect them to have opposite personalities. Indeed, they do. We expect them to lead completely different lifestyles. That they do, too. One tends to hunch, the other stands up straight. The problem is, aside from the occasional surrealistic imagery, the screenplay offers nothing surprising in terms of human element. Must they be complete opposites? There is no anchor to keep the story attached to something we can believe in without question. As a result, the material becomes increasingly dull, dry, and predictable.

There is some form of web that is supposed to keep the picture together. Right from the beginning, I knew exactly what it was doing: planting the seeds for that big, mental “Oh!” once the screen cuts to black and the credits start rolling. How do I know? When the camera goes for a close-up and remains still, you can bet that what is being said is important. Director Denis Villeneuve needs to learn a thing or two about how to treat subtlety like silk, not a sledgehammer. Experienced and intelligent viewers will not—or should not—fall for the typical trappings of the genre. That is what angers me most—it is painfully ordinary in its execution that it ends up not giving the material justice.

A surprising number of people like to defend movies like this. They say things like, “If you look more into it after it’s over, it’s all going to make sense” or “You have to see it multiple times to look for clues!” Stop right there.

A successful movie, one that has reached its full potential, speaks for itself. It does not require to be researched or to be seen a hundred times so that the viewer can get a complete comprehension of what he or she had just seen. Watching a movie is not a homework assignment. When filmmakers treat it as such, they need to go back to film school and learn the basics.

Antiviral


Antiviral (2012)
★★★★ / ★★★★

The Lucas Celebrity Services Clinic provides a rather… special treatment. Their latest customer is Mr. Porris (Douglas Smith) and he wants to be infected with the herpes simplex virus that was taken directly from a celebrity he admires. One of the clinic’s specialists, Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones), advises that he inject the virus on the left side of Mr. Porris’ upper lip because it would appear as though he had been kissed by the celebrity herself. (She has herpes on the upper-right side of her mouth.) Mr. Porris thinks it is a most excellent idea.

“Antiviral,” written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg, coruscates with originality so vivid that although its images and concepts are downright disturbing, I found myself unable to stop staring at it. It is science fiction on the surface, horrific just underneath, and darkly comic in its core. It is a most relevant satire of our celebrity-obsessed culture. Here, “following” one’s favorite stars on Twitter or Instagram is not enough to quench the thirst. No, fans must feel a connection—a molecular connection—by housing viruses their idols have or had.

The film is flooded with the color white and geometric patterns. This is especially applicable to interior shots of the clinic which communicates a level of irony. Illusions of cleanliness and control are created but dealing with viruses is never a clean affair and controlling them is possible only to a point. But customers buy them—just as much as they (we) are willing to dive head-first into idolizing a person based solely on their looks, how they perform on stage, television, and movies, or their on-screen personalities.

Jones kills the challenging role as an ace specialist with an extracurricular activity. The magic in the actor’s performance is a go for broke intensity to the point where we feel uncomfortable watching his character’s body writhe in pain and suffering. He does not play Syd to be likable or sympathetic. Instead, he makes it difficult for us to figure out what Syd is thinking exactly. Syd is cunning. His cold gaze is reminiscent of Patrick Bateman’s, after his mask has slipped, in Mary Harron’s “American Psycho.”

A minor problem occurs during the last third. There are too many third parties that crave a piece of the action involving the death of a celebrity named Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon). It is difficult to keep track of them because they appear and disappear without the necessary bridges. The screenplay assumes we already know who they are and their precise endgames. At one point, I was terribly confused as to whether two of the opposing parties were really working together. I had to stop and think it through which disrupted the way I experienced the story’s momentum.

Despite such a limitation, “Antiviral” remains to be a wild and imaginative vision. Technical details concerning in its universe are best left to be discovered. One thing is certain: the material dares us to respond to it. A standout scene involves Syd going to a local meat shop and asking the manager (Joe Pingue) how people consuming the products he serves is not considered cannibalism. After all, the meat being sold from behind the glass is homegrown celebrity muscle cells.