Reviewed by: Bob MacLean
Once in awhile a movie which many might regard as patently offensive (see my review of Girl, Interrupted) ends up stradling the line between a study in reality and baseness, between human depravity and exploitation of the medium of film. This one should provide ample opportunity for debate. This is not a movie for teenagers or adults with sensitivities.
The movie is a dark one with sweepingly stunning cinematography and rather good acting. It takes place close to my home, just south of San Francisco in the seaside town of Pacifica. It moves very slowly for quite awhile, lulling you into thinking it’s going to be a bore. But then it grabs you for an ugly ride into the hell of lusts and avarice ending in death. It is a mystery/drama and keeps you guessing until the end. All the guesses I formulated during the movie were way off.
Ben Kingsley, who plays Behrani, is superb and you expect that. The surprise is Jennifer Connelly (much better acting than in “A Beautiful Mind”) who deftly compliments Kingsley’s character as Kathy Nicolo and impressively emotes the role of a young woman caught in a death spiral whose family abandons her on all fronts.
One major theme the film is dealing with is interesting, that of racism. Through twists of fate, a displaced Iranian family is struggling to maintain the illusion of their wealth in pre-Shah Iran, but unwittingly clashes with nearly misanthropic but wronged Kathy. They have bought her house in an auction because of back taxes. Unfortunately, the bad decisions Kathy is talented at making attract the wrong types to her including Ron Eldard who plays a sheriff who is royally mixed-up. He leaves his family after meeting her, shacks up with the alcoholic and helps greases the skids of her downward spiral landing them both into that hell mentioned earlier.
From a Christian perspective, there is much of the worst side of humans: alcoholism, murder and suicide scenes, racism, violence and a sex scene. There is liberal use of the f-word, a man abandoning his family for no reason, domestic violence and plenty of hypocrisy to go around. The sex is heavy, even though there’s only one scene. I don’t believe soft porn belongs in mainstream movies. There is one other nude bath scene. I reserve the category of Extremely Offensive for the very worst films which I don’t go to thanks to being able to screen movies beforehand on this Web site!
This is where the question comes in of whether the film is exploiting our human worst or whether it is attempting to study it. My opinion is unregenerate humans cannot study it, they only think they are. If they were, their logic would lead them to Christ but only God’s grace can accomplish what is impossible for us on our own. As a Christian, I can study it but others may not feel this is the appropriate film from which to do so. This is a dark film and most people exiting the theater were not happy with it, based on the comments I heard.
Violence: Heavy | Profanity: Heavy | Sex/Nudity: Heavy