Ugh. What a waste of a perfectly good evening. I was fairly excited about this as I love that whole vibe 70s supernatural thrillers have, I admire [some of] the work of Robert Wise, and this was also one of those movies I had seen once or twice at the age of 13, and it seemed pretty good then. It does NOT hold up.
I watched the trailer before watching the movie, which is essentially the cover of the novel this came from, with a lot of talk about how this is the adaptation of the blockbuster novel. and that's exactly what this movie seemed like: an assured hit, so just make it seem like somewhat of a 'prestige' picture, but no need to put a great deal more effort into it. This is also a painfully obvious rip-off of The Exorcist, especially in the appearance of the child, the mother-daughter dynamic, the multitude of 'distraught mother' scenes, and the whole tone of urban spookiness it tries [with extreme effort] to appropriate. Perhaps the main reason to watch this movie is to appreciate the effortlessness with which The Exorcist achieves all of these effects, in contrast to what we have here. This movie also really highlighted for my what a great performance Ellen Burstyn gave in that movie, and how genuinely innocent and charming the young Linda Blair could be. Because it ain't here, that's for sure.
Here's the deelio: Marsha and her hunky stud of a husband John Beck [more on him later] have a picture-perfect Manhattan life. But creepy Anthony Hopkins is always hanging around and staring at their daughter, Ivy. Marsha and husband get more and more creeped out, John even goes to the police, but no one ever thinks of just going up to the guy and just asking him what he wants. Anthony Hopkins doesn't exactly pose the greatest physical threat, and during this part we get the first glimmers of what turns out to be one of the major problems of this movie: it's just dragging itself out interminably just to. drag itself out. And I have to say that that pisses me off, and turns me against a movie. Anyway, so the whole first 30 minutes is spent finding excuses to drag out the low-level stalking.
Then the couple meets with Anthony [who shaved his beard to help lose that "I'm a crazed stalker" look he was apparently going for?], and he informs them [in an extremely rambling way] that he believes that their daughter Ivy is the reincarnation of his daughter Audrey Rose. We have to wait quite a while more before he gets around to telling them what he WANTS, which is essentially to have visiting rights. I will say that Anthony turns in a good performance typical of his early career. But, even though Marsha's hunky stud husband mildly voices that he thinks this guy is nuts, the film tries to pretend like Anthony is making a fairly reasonable assertion, even though really the ONLY reasonable thing to think is that THIS GUY IS FUCKING NUTS. There's a lot of instances I could mention but honestly I don't care enough to go through them. You could have a VERY interesting movie if the film took the perspective that the guy IS nuts, and he intrudes on this family's life and causes a bunch of problems, but no, what we have is an entirely gullible film that is banking on a 70s audience's leaning toward a belief in reincarnation. That it doesn't adequately consider alternate theories is another alienator from the film.
So anyway, it seems that Ivy is having nightmares-proof positive that she's the reincarnation of another girl, don't you think? At least that's what Marsha is finding herself increasingly believing, which causes John to be frustrated with her, and the predictable and repetitive scenes of marital tension follow. Marsha Mason pulls out all the acting stops in her many Oscar-speech scenes, but she's trying so hard that you're really just sitting there watching a woman act, rather than getting into her character. This reaches its zenith in a scene where she prays to God for forgiveness! Especially when she switches into Latin at the last minute! It's all supposed to be SO HARD-HITTING and it's too lame to manage even that. Let it also be noted that, for me at least, Marsha Mason pretty much sums up a certain kind of 70s banality; that kind of ostentatious "acting" passing as quality. Marsha Mason, ladies and gentlemen, MARSHA MASON.
There follow several repetitive scenes in which Ivy has a nightmare, Anthony calms her down by calling her Audrey Rose, and John gets angry. Then enters a not-so-sub subtext in which Anthony and Marsha unite as the "real parents" of Ivy, and John is shuttled off to the side. This is announced quite unequivocally when Anthony says to Marsha "You and me made this child." This occurs on a night when John had to work late, and places this movie among the spate of movies of the 70s/80s in which the husband is vilified for working [though we hear numerous comments about how lovely the family's Central Park West apartment is], and not "being there" for the family. Marsha accusingly says to John "he was here and you weren't!" Yes, how DARE you work to keep us in this nice apartment, and so I can pursue my amateur photography hobby! You callow cad! Typically [though it isn't pursued in this movie] any comments of the "well, who do you think puts this roof over your head?" variety are met with a rejoinder of how the wife would be perfectly happy to live in a henhouse, we're poor but we've got love, etc. Anyway, the second half of the movie is all about Marsha shutting her husband out, and him fighting to reclaim his stake in his family.
Which brings us to the husband. He is played by John Beck, who sounded familiar, and I see that he was the 70s HUNK who played James Caan's sexy sexy sexy best friend in Rollerball. He, with his fluffy hair, mustache and blue eyes, is a classic 70s hunk in the Sam Elliott in Lifeguard mold. This movie also takes place during a time period when men always wore suits to work, and looked GREAT in the process. There was a LOT of fast-forwarding as I watched this movie, but I have to say there would have been a great deal more if I didn't have the alluring John to look at. Hey sweetie, if Marsha doesn't appreciate her nice digs, I'd be more than happy to take her place, and I can speculate with confidence that I give much better head.
Anyway, it all drags toward a dull climax in which they decide to "prove" whether or not Ivy is really the reincarnation of Audrey Rose by hypnotizing her. And the viewer asks "well, how is this going to prove ANYTHING?" but this, as per usual, is not addressed by the movie. Little Ivy has the maturity to lament "I'm not sure who I am anymore. and I want to know! I've GOT to know!" Then the hypnotist provides the least convincing example of an "objective" party by telling Ivy "You are not Ivy, you are someone else." Leading, anyone?
Ivy is hypnotized, we get non-convincing evidence that she IS the reincarnation, etc., and she dies. This leads Anthony to repeat "It's all right now." And I wanted John and/or Marsha to say "Uh, exactly how is this all right? Our daughter is dead, and she probably wouldn't have been if you had never come into our lives." This is another thing the movie just assumes its audience will swallow, the accumulation of which really makes the viewer turn against the movie.
So there you have it. Kind of a waste of time, but for the eye-candy of the alluring John. Again, I think you could have a very interesting movie, or even remake, if we just took the perspective that Anthony IS nuts, and infiltrates and ultimately ruins this family. But what we have here. there is a better use for good plastic. And your time.
No. Unless you've seen Rollerball and you want to see more of the hunky John Beck. But if that's your reason, watch this first, THEN watch Rollerball, because he's a lot sexier and frequently shirtless in that movie. Or just skip this one and watch that one.
THE EXORCIST is the model for this movie, and is a lot better in almost every respect.
BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING is tonally similar, features similar scenes, and has a much more interesting film technique and story.
DON'T LOOK NOW is also tonally similar in terms of a couple broken over the loss of their daughter, and also features certain similar scenes.
All of the above are much better films that are definitely worth your time.
ROLLERBALL gives you a mighty tasty gander at the splendor of John Beck in full-on hunk mode.