After a man’s wife cheats on him, he becomes increasingly unstable.
A buddy who really likes De Palma (“Sisters”, “Carrie”) recommended this film to me. For the most part, I like De Palma a lot too- he’s a director that has a lot of class in his suspense genres while still maintaining a level of schlockiness that I really enjoy. At times, he feels like a giallo director, adding just the right amount of sleaze to keep the movie compelling. This film felt like that to me- it’s premise was just farfetched enough to keep me engaged all the way through, and though I wouldn’t say this was anywhere close to De Palma’s best film, it does have some really unique elements.
"The cat's in the bag, and the bag's in the river."
There are two versions of this movie- the theatrical and the director’s cut. I watched the director’s cut of the film and have never seen the theatrical- so keep that in mind as you read this review. Apparently, the running time of both versions are identical, the only difference is the way the film is edited. Now, when watching the director’s cut, I thought that the editing was one of the best parts of the whole film- it’s inventive and jumps all over the place- much like the mind of our main character, Carter (John Lithgow, “Pet Semetary (2019)”). The editing is done in a way that sometimes shows us the result of some action before showing us the action itself (ie we see the result of a crime before we watch the crime happen). We return to multiple scenes over and over again, seeing things from different perspectives and gleaning new information. As a result, the film is darn near impossible to predict, and it has a jarring tone that constantly keeps you on your toes. The cut of the film I watched feels like it could’ve heavily influenced Christopher Nolan’s “Memento” (2000), just based on the way some scenes play out.
De Palma’s directing is pretty great in this movie as well. I’ve always found that certain scenes work better than others in De Palma’s films and this one is no different. The film, overall, deals with a man with multiple personality disorder- so the way they approach that has a lot to do with how I viewed the film. In this film, Lithgow is often pitted against himself onscreen- talking to a twin of himself and playing different characters. In some scenes, I thought this worked really well, but in others I wasn’t as impressed. The first time when this technique is introduced was one of the weaker scenes in the film; in my opinion- it just didn’t play as well as I thought it could’ve. De Palma’s obsession with Hitchcock is quite obvious throughout this movie, and that’s something I’ve always loved about De Palma’s style. There are glaring allusions to “Vertigo”, “Frenzy”, “Rope”, and a reference to “Psycho” so obvious that even casual cinephiles should be able to spot it. There are some pretty cool shots and some interesting directorial choices that really make this movie pop, but there are also some scenes that feel a little forced. In particular, I feel like this movie has issues with staging characters- and giving them motivations to move and do certain things. There is one scene in particular near the beginning of the film, when Carter’s wife Jenny (Lolita Davidovich, “Gods and Monsters”) stays in a store while her husband walks outside with their daughter, leaving Jenny alone in the store. It’s then that Jenny meets Jack (Steven Bauer, “Scarface” (1983))and has a conversation with him, and then as soon as their conversation is done and Jack leaves, Carter returns. The blocking feels convenient and theatrical- it feels like the characters are just characters moving around to further the story, it doesn’t feel like they are real people doing real things in their everyday lives. Normally, I really don’t notice blocking unless it feels unnatural, and there were several scenes in this film that felt off-kilter to me.
In the end, the star of the show is John Lithgow, and he is stupendous in this role. Though I wasn’t always a fan of how he played off himself from a directorial standpoint, from an acting standpoint he knocked it out of the park. In this role, he’s required to play a number of characters with very distinct personalities. Most of the time, he’s able to pull this off in a wonderful fashion, though there are a few scenes where he comes off as a mustache-twirling villain. I thought Lolita Davidovich was fine as well, but neither character was really a likeable person. It was kind of hard to find someone to root for in this movie.
Another problem I had with this movie is that a lot of the themes felt familiar. At this point in my life, I’ve watched probably over a dozen different films about killers/villains with multiple personalities, and after a while, they all start to feel a bit redundant, running over the same ground again and again. While this isn’t entirely the fault of the film, I have trouble saying that this film breaks any new ground. It feels like a blended concoction of half a dozen other thrillers I’ve seen before. That doesn’t make it bad, but it certainly doesn’t feel as memorable as other De Palma movies I’ve seen.
This movie is fine; there are some really great moments in it, but for the most part it just feels like a slightly above par thriller. If you’re looking for something to watch on a rainy Saturday morning, this isn’t a bad film to land on. Lithgow is great fun to watch, De Palma’s homages to Hitchcock are great, and the editing in the director’s cut is pretty unique, but overall this film runs over ground already well tread upon.
This is part of our 31 Nights of Thrills Series. Not all of the movies we review for this series will be strictly horror, but all will have something to do with the spirit of things spooky or scary. If you like those types of movies, be sure to check back throughout the month of October!
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