Monday, June 02, 2008

Savaging Grace

Incest is evidently the new black, which is bad news for haute couture. As well as Polly Stenham's That Face, which I'll be able to review in a couple of weeks, the movie Savage Grace is out soon. Sadly, while awards bodies salivate over That Face, they'll be spitting on Savage Grace.

Based on the true story of the wealthy Baekelands - Barbara (Julianne Moore), a social climber; Brooks (Stephen Dillane), the heir to a plastics fortune; and their son, Tony (Eddie Redmayne) - Savage Grace follows the dysfunctional trio across the world as they hurt each other and make us miserable. Incest ensues, but not interest.

Instead of a plot, there are three beautiful people sleeping around and Julianne Moore acting hysterically. The only semblance of a plot comes in far too late, when Moore decides that the best way to 'cure' her son of homosexuality is to sleep with him. It's an effective scene, in that it makes your stomach churn, but after all the meandering, it's little recompense for the previous 75 minutes.

Director Tom Kalin has an assured hand, which is surprising since his last movie before Savage Grace (and directorial debut) was in 1992. He captures beautiful locations and beautiful actors (Redmayne has quite amazing lips), but where is the drama? Self-obsession naturally excludes an audience, but even the vain can be made interesting and given something to do. Instead, Kalin lets them get on with the tough business of being pretty, only fitfully prompting them TO DO SOMETHING.

When the projectionist failed to put on the fifth reel, there was an audible cry of relief. (It may or may not have been me.) But it got a laugh, and captured the sour feeling of the room. Savage Grace is a film that thinks it is showing you something profound about the capacity of humans to love and hurt each other; what it really does is show you how shallow and dull they can be.

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