Danika Movie Review

Danika Merrick (Marisa Tomei) is a young suburban mother with a large family and an over-active imagination. When the brutal armed robbery of the bank in which she works winds up being nothing more than a really vivid hallucination, Danika decides to stay home and spend more time with the family -- much to her teenaged children's consternation. More hallucinations follow -- a missing and murdered girl, a terrorist attack on a school bus, a severed head in the fridge - and with each fresh jolt of psychosis, Danika's world gets smaller and less grounded in reality. She keeps a close eye on her kids and becomes obsessed with their budding sexuality. Danika worries about the faithfulness of her husband and the age of her psychiatrist. Pills follow. Nerves jangle. While everyone around her -- including the cops -- is convinced Danika's off her rocker, some of the hallucinations start coming true. Perhaps these aren't mere illusions but premonitions?

Danika is something of a puzzle film. Nearly every sequence contains some hint at the outcome. Some whisper towards the future. At times the approach is engaging, others just irritating. Scripter Joshua Leibner hopes to generate confusion and at the same time lend an almost reverential power to the onscreen happenings. It's like asking, "where is the line between psychosis and divination?" Thankfully the film moves towards a more satisfying conclusion than freshman year philosophy banter. Well, somewhat more satisfying: Every telegraphed shock and twist in Danika has been done before. It doesn't feel old, necessarily, just too familiar. Too comfortable.

It goes without saying that the modern progenitor for all this "is it real?" business was Roman Polanski's Repulsion and director Ariel Vromen plays all the right riffs, just differently. Danika is not a dark film. There are no long shadows or strange angles. Everything is played very straight; this is suburbia after all. The cinematography by Darko Suvak captures the autumnal light and contrasts nicely with the dark undercurrents of the story. But at times the production has a television movie feel. I'm not sure why that is -- perhaps the over-reliance on long shots -- but some sequences appear cheap because of it. They're almost drained of significance. Not a good thing in any movie.

Tomei does a nice job navigating these harrowing waters. She's jumpy, edgy, and at times downright spooky. Craig Bierko (playing her husband Randy) is a good straight man and holds his cards to his chest nicely. The rest of the cast shifts frequently from shock to repulsion, and Vromen knows how to capture their emotions without it all sounding shrill.

Danika is a decent film but not a terribly original one. There is a maze at its center, a labyrinth of twists and shocks, of hallucinations and horrible truths. But like any maze it's what's at the end that matters. Danika battles her own personal Minotaur at the heart of her psychosis to reach a conclusion that while unexpected -- perhaps even shocking -- may not really be worth all the toil.

Cast & Crew

Director : Ariel Vromen

Producer : , John F.K. Parenteau, Mark A. Roberts

Starring : , , , Ridge Canipe, Bailey Hughes, Nicki Prian, Tom Griffin, Akuyoe Graham, Tess Lina


Danika Rating

" Weak "

Rating: R, 2006


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