Like you, I saw the preview for this, and heard the premise, and thought “WHAT the FUCK?!” But then I read so many positive reviews that I determined to see it, and was very glad I did. I’m always intrigued when a review says essentially “it’s almost impossible to describe what’s good about this in a review, but it’s a really great movie.” And that’s how this was.
You have to just deal with the premise. Just deal with it and move on, because that’s not what it’s about. The premise is, as with any story, just a framework to hang a story on, and the fact that this one is thinner than usual I think is used purposefully to direct your attention away from plot points and toward the emotional reality of the characters and story.
You’d also better get used to the idea that the explanation you’re going to get at the end is not going to wrap everything up. But if you’re really following the movie, by then you won’t care.
One of the joys of this movie is the reliance on technique. The movie begins with a wonderful high steadicam shot following a jogger through wintery Central Park [bare trees against a gray sky will become a recurring visual motif], while the first piece of the wonderful score by Alexandre Desplat plays. There are a great many sequences here in which there is no dialogue, just the amazing score [which finds a way to USE the spare repetition of Philip Glass to emotional effect, something I’ve never actually heard in Philip Glass] and careful compositions. There are also a great many long takes, and long takes of the actor’s faces. One of these you’ve probably read about; the long take of Nicole Kidman at the opera, trying to hold it together and focus as a storm of emotion rages within her. But there are a great many more of these, none quite as electrifying as that one, but all fascinating nonetheless.
And it’s just such a thrill to have some intelligent filmic TECHNIQUE to follow!
The performances are all very good, but Nicole Kidman’s really stands out. She creates such a convincing character, and so confidently goes into the most outwardly ridiculous scenes, she alone takes the viewer with her. She has a number of standout scenes, and it’s a shame that no one paid enough attention to this movie to give her the accolades for her work that she deserves. She has a scene in here [tucking in the bed] that is the equivalent of Shelly Duvall finding her husbands “novel” in The Shining, and is just as creepy. Go, Nicole! It’s great that she does movies like this instead of just chucking it all for the likes of The Stepford Wives.
Cameron Bright also does an excellent job of seeming legitimately adult, and Danny Huston conveys a domineering and slightly evil force that comes into play as the movie moves toward its conclusion.
This movie is more about psychological truth than literal truth, and you just have to deal with that. It builds to a climax that, if you’ve allowed yourself to be drawn into the story, will stay with you for a few days. Although the shot of Nicole’s face at the opera gets the majority of the attention, it was the last shot of the film that I found terribly harrowing and haunting.
This was the best new movie I’ve seen in more than a year.
Yes, it's brilliant.