Tag Archives: Susan Downey

Orphan (2009, Jaume Collet-Serra)

Orphan‘s a peculiar failure. The script isn’t particularly good; it’s layered with foreshadowing upon foreshadowing and some very predictable turns. But it has these occasionally strong dialogue scenes between Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard. It runs out of them after a while, but they leave a positive memory.

Then there’s director Collet-Serra. He really likes crane shots in what should be enclosed spaces and he likes to use handheld when he should have a track. Orphan feels like an inexperienced director who got the opportunity to do a lot of things just because he could. Collet-Serra can’t do the two simple things Orphan needs him to do.

First, it needs him to tie a children’s story–Aryana Engineer and Jimmy Bennett get an adopted sister–to an adult’s story–Farmiga and Sarsgaard are new adoptive parents. Both of these stories (more Farmiga and Sarsgaard because of their fine acting, Farmiga in particular) have some strong moments. Scared kids is a classic, cheap movie standard and Collet-Serra can’t pull it off. It’s sort of embarrassing, because he doesn’t even seem to get it.

Second, he needs to give the family’s house a personality. He can’t. Some of it is lousy production design courtesy Tom Meyer, some of it is Collet-Serra’s incompetence.

As the film’s bad seed, Isabelle Fuhrman is mediocre. She can’t hold her accent and she’s never believable in hindsight after the big reveal.

Orphan‘s a boring thriller with bad direction and an excellent Farmiga performance.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra; screenplay by David Johnson, based on a story by Alex Mace; director of photography, Jeff Cutter; edited by Timothy Alverson; music by John Ottman; production designer, Tom Meyer; produced by Joel Silver, Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Susan Downey and Leonardo DiCaprio; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Vera Farmiga (Kate), Peter Sarsgaard (John), Isabelle Fuhrman (Esther), CCH Pounder (Sister Abigail), Jimmy Bennett (Daniel), Margo Martindale (Dr. Browning), Karel Roden (Dr. Varava), Rosemary Dunsmore (Grandma Barbara) and Aryana Engineer (Max).


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Whiteout (2009, Dominic Sena)

I spent a lot of Whiteout wondering why Dominic Sena, whose first film is Kalifornia, didn’t go crazy stylizing the film. It’s relatively stylized as thrillers go, but it’s not at all extreme. And it didn’t even occur to me until the last shot of the film, which lots of people probably don’t have the patience for, to realize what Sena was and wasn’t doing with Whiteout. Whether he realized it or not, he’s created the first mainstream film noir with a female lead (and set in Antarctica).

With the constant use of flashback (but not narration, which is strange, since the comic was heavily narrated and the film takes breaks for it then doesn’t fill them, resulting in frequent white spaces), the tortured protagonist and the suspicious members of the opposite sex, it’s the first film with Kate Beckinsale where I’d ever say she was playing the Sterling Hayden role.

The film does stumble through its first act. Until the cast is established, it’s awkward, as the pacing isn’t quite right for such a large cast. But then, once everyone is introduced, it’s all of a sudden this wonderful experience, watching these people act together.

Beckinsale’s good (though the film’s early objectifying of her is problematic), but without wowing. This role isn’t a hard one (Whiteout‘s about as much of a feminist blockbuster attempt as Sheena). Gabriel Macht’s excellent as are Columbus Short and Shawn Doyle. Tom Skerritt and Alex O’Loughlin are both solid too.

It’s a fine film.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Dominic Sena; screenplay by Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes, based on the comic book by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber; director of photography, Christopher Soos; edited by Stuart Baird and Martin Hunter; music by John Frizzell; production designer, Graham ‘Grace’ Walker; produced by Susan Downey and Joel Silver; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Kate Beckinsale (Carrie Stetko), Gabriel Macht (Robert Pryce), Tom Skerritt (Dr. John Fury), Columbus Short (Delfy), Alex O’Loughlin (Russell Haden) and Shawn Doyle (Sam Murphy).


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