Mouth to Mouth

"Weak"

Mouth to Mouth Review


Mouth to Mouth has enough going for it that you want to like it. But, try as you might, writer-director-dance choreographer Alison Murray's youth cautionary tale will likely leave you frustrated, and exhausted by the effort. Murray's movie rides on a thin dramatic premise: Sherry (Ellen Page), a teenager alienated from her mother (there's something new) runs away and joins a radical youth cooperative (read: cult) made up of society's backwash, i.e. junkies, runaways, and former prostitutes.

The group's fist-in-the-air acronym is SPARK (Street People Armed with Radical Knowledge), and the creed they rally around is "intellectual self-defense" -- a catchphrase that should ring a bell with anyone familiar with the 1992 Noam Chomsky documentary Manufacturing Consent. Apart from weaning addicts off drugs, SPARK's shaven-headed principal members, none of whom apparently owns a shirt, operate with no bigger political purpose in mind. Largely, the group exists as a generic narrative device -- an aimless, visionless organization of Murray's concoction solely to run Sherry through her paces.

Trundling through Europe in a rattletrap van, they preach their power-to-the-people mumbo jumbo to the homeless and the disaffected, rummage for food in dumpsters, and, otherwise, party it up at raves like it's 1999. At first, Sherry's all about the SPARK experience. It gives her a sense of belonging, of purpose, and that itself brings to mind the irony of teenage rebellion: We reject one form of authority (parental) only to lap up the non-conformist Kool-Aid offered by another. Unless and until we take control of our destinies, we're bound to remain suckers. That, in a nutshell, is Murray's message.

The SPARK tribe eventually rolls up to a commune where they pick grapes, bottle wine, and generally find themselves subjected to Harry (Eric Thal), their bearish chieftain, and his Orwellian mind tricks and brutal punishments. That's also when Rose (Natasha Wightman), Sherry's flighty, thoroughly incompetent mother shows up. Rose responds to Harry's self-empowerment sloganeering and decides to join the group herself. Sherry, of course, is as mortified by Rose's presence as by Harry's psychological and sexual manipulations of the females in the group, whose broken-down self-esteems make them perfect prey.

Along with the recently released castration thriller Hard Candy, Mouth to Mouth declares Ellen Page as an actor to pay attention to. In both movies, she galvanizes her puckish innocence with a sexual energy that makes her more than watchable, and, in her most anguished scenes in Mouth to Mouth, she proves herself a fierce talent. Likewise, Eric Thal as Harry emanates magnetic charisma, finding that perfect pitch between menacing and seductive. Barry Stone's cinematography, often hand-held and grungy, beautifully captures the freewheeling essence of youth. In the movie's quieter moments, his images evoke a lonesome, dream-like quality that's absolutely stunning. Stone's work is complemented by Frank Kruse's sound design and Rowan Oliver's score, both marvelously ethereal.

Murray's script, though, is so threadbare in offering character motivations and background that it hobbles the performances, as good as they are, and leaves the task of glossing over its weaknesses to the technical department. As well crafted as it is, Mouth to Mouth's sound mix eventually bogs the movie down, always thrumming and howling with music and texture to cover the gaping dramatic holes in its script. Sherry is a wayward teenager who resents her mother, but what ails her specifically? The nature of her and Rose's mutual friction is never realized and developed. As a mother, Rose is a moron, nothing more, and Sherry, when all's said and done, is a blandly rebellious teen like any other. What motivates the borderline criminal Harry to do what he does? There is no engine driving this story, just a filmmaker summoning tropes about freedom, authority, and the costs accompanying both. Finally, Murray really tests our patience by her experimenting with interpretive dance routines that periodically interrupt the story action. These moments mean to underscore character relationships, but they feel out-of-place, like superfluous commentary on a story that's hardly even there.



Mouth to Mouth

Facts and Figures

Run time: 101 mins

In Theaters: Friday 9th May 2008

Distributed by: Artistic License Films

Production compaines: Hellhound Productions, MJW Productions, Egoli Tossell Film AG

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Fresh: 10 Rotten: 10

IMDB: 6.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Alison Murray

Producer: Anne Beresford, Judy Tossell

Starring: as Sherry, as Rose, as Harry, as Tiger, Diana Greenwood as Dog, Beatrice Brown as Nancy, Maxwell McCabe-Lokos as Mad Ax, Elliot McCabe-Lokos as Manson, Jefferson Guzman as Blade, Willy Rachow as Scrawny Boy, Christian Näthe as Hackler, as Red, Patrícia Guerreiro as Squeegee Girl, Joaquim Horta as Cute Guy, Armin Dillenberger as Spark Member


Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

45 Years Movie Review

45 Years Movie Review

Like an antidote to vacuous blockbusters, this intelligent, thoughtful drama packs more intensity into a...

Straight Outta Compton Movie Review

Straight Outta Compton Movie Review

This biopic gallops through the career of groundbreaking gangsta rappers N.W.A, working its way through...

We Are Your Friends Movie Review

We Are Your Friends Movie Review

Basically the perfect summer movie, this lightweight drama has a great-looking cast and plenty of...

Sinister 2 Movie Review

Sinister 2 Movie Review

As the ghoul from the 2012 horror hit stalks a new family, this sequel's sharply...

Advertisement
Paper Towns Movie Review

Paper Towns Movie Review

After setting the scene with vivid characters and some insightful interaction, the plot of this...

Vacation Movie Review

Vacation Movie Review

Both the characters and the tone have been updated as a new generation of Grizwolds...

Trainwreck Movie Review

Trainwreck Movie Review

Amy Schumer makes her big screen debut with a script that feels like a much-extended...

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Movie Review

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Movie Review

Adopting a deliciously groovy vibe, Guy Ritchie turns the iconic 1960s TV spy series into...

Advertisement