Soft direction around the edges with a twisted and secretive core, this thriller might not be wholly captivating but as the plot moves ahead, you start getting drawn into this dark world of questions, fame and murder.
1957, entertaining duo Vince Collins (Colin Firth) and Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon) are prime time in hosting a telethon, but when flying to a hotel in New Jersey they discover a naked student in their hotel room bath and both get away with no charges. In 1972, journalist Karen O’Connor (Alison Lohman) is keen to get the story behind the grisly death. She is ghostwriting Vince’s book but things get complicated as she recieves written chapters and meets with Lanny by chance.
Atom Egoyan’s stance on thrillers is a slow building one, this nature of letting the camera calmly float around the scenes lulls you into false senses of security, so when something does turn or a character does fly off the handle it feels more shocking. Atom’s later feature of ‘Chloe’ does the same thing in setting up the soft approach of thrillers then hitting with a few darker moments. This 2005 movie has the bonus of flying back and forth in its time line, this hopping linear structure is dealt with well and scenes blend together to unite as if Karen was always meant to be there and uncover the story. On the other hand it becomes a dull ride and a grittier faster handle could have benefited the movie much more.
It’s based on a book by Rupert Holmes and the screenplay is tackled by Atom also, who crafts up an interesting tale on fraught friendships, murder and mystery. It’s not exactly compelling but there’s enough in the story to sell the erotic side of Karen’s journey and as the film passes the 90 minute mark revelations come in at all angles. It’s something that pulled me right back into the film as once an event had been disclosed, you find out where else the truth may lay. It does keep you guessing and that’s a thriller necessity.
There’s nothing truly fancy about the look of the film, it screams crime film more than thriller, there’s no noir or slickness to proceedings but the shady characters give it that mysterious criminal touch. Mychael Danna’s score swells more often than not, trying to make the audience feel apprehensive about the action on screen but though it’s orchestral and bellowing, it doesn’t gain that urgency of tension needed for a thriller musical backdrop.
The visual style of 50’s and 70’s is A plus but after a while even that can’t overshadow the halting climax of Karen’s tale. The Polio message and her connection to the telethon is odd in itself but then Lanny’s whispering dialogue to her feels laboured and too much of a further tryst to involve Karen from the aftermath of the duo’s drug induced menage et trois. The constant sleaze attempting to be sensual smut is unsatisfying as if trying to gift the film sexuality.
Kevin Bacon triumphs as in everything he does, truly I could watch him in anything. The early lovable rogue character is topped up with being a cad, a dick and a nuisance but as he goes on you see his more human side and the truth of his nature as a man comes out. Colin Firth could be pigeon holed again into the classy sensible Brit role, but at moments he turns on the darkness and becomes a seedy brute that makes him rival the alarming character he took on in ‘Before I Go to Sleep’. I actually liked Alison Lohman as Karen, I’ve seen some reviews criticizing her performance, but she has a grounded and sharp approach for her flawed character, she gets one up on the men in the film and she’s beautiful, though getting her nude all the time is a sore point considering how well she can do when not thrust forward as sexual eye candy, i.e ‘Drag me to Hell’. David Hayman as the butler Reuben sounds and looks like a typical thriller cliche.
The truth of the film isn’t fantastic but it twist and turns enough to make you wary of what the correct answer may really be. It looks stylish and there’s some delight to be had in the performances but it’s certainly no recommended thriller. An average mystery.