Purgatory House

"Good"

Purgatory House Review


It seems obvious that the best way to get deep inside a teen's troubles would be by talking to a teen. So how close can any filmmaker get to a young adult's real issues? Damn close, it would appear, when the screenplay comes directly from the source -- in this case, a 14-year-old writer/actress named Celeste Davis. Producer/director Cindy Baer rests her feature film debut on this inexperienced creative mind, lending Purgatory House both plusses and minuses.

There's a lack of polish and, more importantly, an uninhibited demeanor to Davis's script which work well for the subject matter -- a high school girl (played by Davis), after taking her own life, finds herself eternally trapped in a bizarre home with other successful teen suicides. Davis clearly pours her heart and ideals into the narrative, conveying plenty of gravity and complexity (flashbacks, dream sequences, moments of spare dialogue) despite her youthful viewpoint. Baer's biggest accomplishment as a producer is in guiding this unapologetic, sometimes awkward voice to the screen.

But allowing Davis such creative freedom is also the film's greatest weakness. Some of Purgatory House's sloppier moments feel like the ramblings of a bright high schooler writing to pass time in detention. Davis's script remains untouched (according to press notes), but the film would've been well served if Baer's direction lifted the parts that needed it, just by tightening up dialogue or adding a smoother touch. Without that, some scenes play like a well-made college production, with the digital videography adding to the occasional amateur feel.

If Celeste Davis needs time and work to blossom into a practiced screenwriter, her acting chops are already on the mark. As Silver Marie Strand, the girl who rethinks her short life and eternal fate, Davis is open, smart and patient, everything that a viewer could ask for in a performance. She plays off her weaker co-stars with ease, and her timing has a confidence that overpowers any rough edges.

Most impressive are the moments of schoolgirl fantasy that Davis unabashedly leaps into. When Silver meets God (Jim Hanks, Tom's younger brother, in drag) on the set of a far-out, loser-goes-to-hell game show, Davis never reveals a second of hesitancy. The idea may seem unrefined, even silly, and the special effects cheap and hokey, but the star offers honest pain and confusion. That's what keeps a viewing audience interested.

Baer's direction does support that same hell-be-damned (no pun) attitude, but she misses a few opportunities to add a taste of gentle maturity to the film. When a utopian special effects sequence has people of all kinds joining hands, a Tarot card whizzes on and off-screen, like some late-night fortune-telling infomercial. Perhaps small moments like this spew directly from young Davis's overactive brain? In that case, with age, experience and a continued lack of self-consciousness, Celeste Davis will prove to be a true shining talent.

Purgatory's looking better every day.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 97 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 20th September 2003

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 4 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 6.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The BFG Movie Review

The BFG Movie Review

For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...

Finding Dory Movie Review

Finding Dory Movie Review

It's been 13 years since the release of the Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, and filmmaker...

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

This is where the Star Trek franchise officially shifts from thoughtful drama into thunderous action....

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

With its fifth feature-length adventure, this franchise continues its preposterous journey at full tilt. As...

Keanu Movie Review

Keanu Movie Review

An entertaining hybrid of satirical comedy and action thriller, this madcap adventure swerves wildly between...

Ghostbusters Movie Review

Ghostbusters Movie Review

It's been more than 30 years since the Ghostbusters first hit the big screen with...

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

While the original 2013 magical caper was a big hit, it's style-over-substance approach didn't exactly...

Advertisement
The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

It's been nearly 30 years since the last live-action Tarzan movie, and yet it still...

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

A New York comedy with vivid characters and a contrived plot, this feels rather a...

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Nearly 25 years after the sitcom debuted, Edina and Patsy arrive on the big screen...

Central Intelligence Movie Review

Central Intelligence Movie Review

After teaming up with Will Ferrell for Get Hard and Ice Cube for two Ride...

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

Based on a true story, this Chilean drama has a chilling edge to it that's...

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Two decades is a long time to wait for a sequel, especially one starring much...

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

This movie is based on a real meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon in...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.