Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Savaging Grace

"Savage Grace" is a very strange film, and I think, not a very good one. It has a salacious subject matter (murder, drugs, incest, bed-hopping, all set against the background of beautiful sunny European getaways), yet is populated by a trio of characters so cold and unforthcoming that there is no sense of what motivates them, or even, why a viewer would care other than a stare-at-the-accident-on-the-highway response. At first, these are exactly how you expect the characters to be: rich, idle, bored, living off the fortunes made by the husband/father's grandfather, they amble through Europe and through the 40's, 50's, 60's, and 70's, during which time the son ages from infant to young adult, and the parents remain stalled in self-centered immaturity. But as the move progresses, you start to wonder why any of this matters to any of the characters, and then you start to wonder, why does this matter to me?

Odd that what I found alienating about the structure of the film is what I often claim to prefer: instead of trying to skim across the surface and explain all that happened during the passage of time, the movie jumps forward in clumps, landing on days in which it squats for several slowly-played out scenes, so you are given individual moments that should add up to a whole. Unfortunately, while some of these are beautifully shot and startling, they accumulate into a sense of "why?" that never really goes away.

Julianne Moore is the only name actor I recognized, and she is okay, yet like everyone else in the movie there were times when I felt her performance veering too close to camp. So much strange happens here that you can't help but imagine someone sitting back and chuckling at what made it on the screen - and yet, apparently, this is based on a true story. Which is what it comes down to for me: if this were fiction, it would be a load of crap, but since it professes to be based on real events, it's hard not to wonder what was really going on in these people's lives. (You won't find out in the movie. It's based on a book, and I wonder if you'd find it there.)


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