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Crimson Peak

Room

October 22, 2015

Crimson Peak (** ½) R

It must be noted that Crimson Peak, director Guillermo Del Toro’s latest foray in the supernatural genre, contains some creepy imagery that’s likely to stay with you long after the tired story of the film has played itself out.  This, of course, doesn’t come as a surprise as Del Toro is renowned for this sort of thing and he certainly doesn’t disappoint. Unfortunately, his shortcomings as a solid cinematic storyteller let him down at every turn in what eventually becomes an exercise in tedium and formula filmmaking.

The turn of the century setting of the film is meticulously recreated by Del Toro and crew and it’s a sight to behold, particularly the film’s exquisite lensing by noted cinematographer, Dan Laustsen.  The house of the film’s title oozes and bleeds in spectacular fashion and if there’s a takeaway to be found in the film, this is it.

The story, however, is another issue, with the plot points being telegraphed well in advance of their transpiring onscreen.

Jessica Chastain in Crimson Peak

The basics are that it concerns aspiring writer Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), who lives with her doting dad, (Jim Beaver).  Edith is visited by the ghostly apparition of her mother, whose warnings regarding Crimson Peak—the house where the apparently eligible bachelor Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) resides with his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain)—fall on deaf ears.

Edith throws away a suitor and falls head over heels in love with Sharpe against the protestations of her father. Once she moves into the home and gets past the obvious fact that’s it badly in need of some serious maintenance, she begins to see apparitions on a regular basis. The reasons why will be familiar to anyone who’s seen any film whose plot remotely resembles the one contained here. The protracted feel of the film’s relaxed pacing doesn’t help matters either.

As I said, the film looks great but, strangely, the supernatural elements sometimes feel as if they are out of step with the rest of the picture. When a film is billing itself as a ghost story, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Here we have a basic plot that isn’t really otherworldly, while ghosts crop up from time to time. When the ghouls and ghosts do show up it feels forced and mostly just a reason to keep the audience baited into staying with the proceedings. That’s a big disappointment when one takes into consideration the colossal talent involved in a film such as Crimson Peak. It’s great to look at and that’s about the best I can say about the film.

This movie is currently playing in Hickory and the surrounding area.
  
Room (** ½) R

Have you ever seen a film whose first half is so overpowering and wrought with emotional firepower that the second half can’t help but suffer in comparison? Full Metal Jacket would be a notable example of this kind of cinematic storytelling. As it turns out, so would director Lenny Abrahamson’s film version of the celebrated novel Room, adapted for the screen by the writer of the novel, Emma Donoghue. It’s one of those films that, once it reaches its climactic mid-point, the story unfortunately has nowhere to go but down, such is the raw power of the utterly gripping first half of this film.

The opening scenes of the film are a bit hard to get acclimated to as the filmmakers only gradually let us into the world of the two main characters, referred to only as Ma and Jack. Once we figure out what’s happening the film becomes quite engrossing. 

Jack (Jacob Treblay) is celebrating his fifth birthday as the film opens.

Brie Larson & Jacob Treblay in Room

His mother (Brie Larson) has decided that it’s time to let Jack in on the secret that there’s a world outside of the ten by ten foot shed in which she and her son have been imprisoned for so many years, ever since Ma’s imprisonment and rape at the hands of her kidnapper. Jack apparently doesn’t have any idea that there’s a world outside of the one in which he’s lived the first five years of his existence. Ma has remedied this situation by playing games with the boy and insisting that Jack refer to their living quarters as a thing as opposed to a place, a place which he simply calls Room.

The first hour of the film is fascinating as the audience is shown the world that mother and son have come to know through the eyes of young Jack.  His wide-eyed sense of wonder at the world just outside his existence fires his imagination, filling his days and nights with hope that he will eventually see it firsthand.

It would do the film a great disservice to give away too many of its surprises but I’ll just say that once the film makes a surprise turn at the end of the first half, it’s clearly evident that a dramatic shift is bound to take place. I’ll just go on say that the last half of the film hinges on too many scenes of Jack eating and sleeping and not enough advancement of the film’s potentially promising story. It’s tedious going at best and some will be more forgiving but I felt Room needed some judicious trims at this point.

What the film lacks in cohesive storytelling, however, it more than makes up for in production design and in the film’s wonderful performances of the two leads, not to mention some notable supporting work from William H. Macy and Joan Allen in the film’s second half. I wish that Room had managed to fulfill the promise established during its initial scenes throughout its entire running time. Unfortunately, that turns out to be too tall of an order for this film.

Room is an art house film not currently playing in North Carolina.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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