An arch approach makes this bonkers thriller rather enjoyable, even if it never quite cracks the surface. The story comes from the Edgar Allan Poe story The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether, written in 1845, so director Brad Anderson (The Call) has fashioned the movie as bit of riotous Victorian mental institution nuttiness. Cue the mad-eyed acting, gothic production design and ludicrously batty plot. But if you take it for what it is, it's pretty entertaining.
It takes place in December 1999, as the new century is about to dawn and young doctor Edward (Jim Sturgess) arrives at Stonehearst Lunatic Asylum in a freakishly isolated corner of England. Instantly smitten with the inmate Eliza (Kate Beckinsale), Edward struggles to concentrate on the tasks given to him by his sinister boss Silas (Ben Kingsley), while being constantly watched over by the glowering groundsman Mickey Finn (David Thewlis). Silas' revolutionary system of treatment involves indulging the patients in their specific delusions, which has created a deranged sense of community in the sprawling hospital. Then one night stumbling around in the darkness, Edward discovers a group of people locked in prison cells in the basement, and their leader Benjamin (Michael Caine) claims to be the true head doctor. Yes, the inmates have taken over the asylum!
This premise allows the cast to indulge in a variety of hilariously shifty performances, hamming up every scene with constant innuendo. There isn't anyone in this place who looks remotely sane. Sturgess is fine as the dull Edward, while Beckinsale keeps her character's madness just out of sight, so both of them pale in this colourful company. Kingsley and Caine camp it up marvellously, while Thewlis adds a strong sense of menace and Sophie Kennedy Clark almost steals the film as an amusingly sex-mad virginal nurse. It's also worth watching the background players, as each has a ball his or her brand of craziness.
Continue reading: Stonehearst Asylum Review
Even though this comedy has a tendency to dip into cartoonish silliness, it's anchored by a razor-sharp performance by Wiig as a woman forced to confront everything she hates about herself. The film is also packed with hilarious moments that keep us laughing, and it also gets surprisingly sexy and emotional along the way.
Wiig plays Imogene, who has done nothing with her career after winning a rising-star playwright award. Then she loses her day job as a listings editor just as her high-flier boyfriend (Petsos) leaves her. When she fakes a suicide attempt to get some attention, she's court-ordered to move in with her free-spirited mother Zelda (Bening) back home in New Jersey. There she struggles with Zelda's colourful boyfriend George (Dillon), who claims to be a top-secret spy, her goofy-inventor brother Ralph (Fitzgerald) and the smart, sexy and very young lodger Lee (Criss) who rents her old bedroom. But just as she's beginning to cope, a family secret shakes her to the core.
Even as the script strains to be improbably zany, Wiig holds the film together with a startlingly honest comical turn. From the start we knew she didn't fit in with her Manhattan friends, and her slightly out-of-control personality is much more suited to the Jersey Shore. Her scenes with Criss are very nicely played, as they develop an unexpected relationship. By contrast, Bening struggles to appear as dim as Zelda seems to be, while Dillon hams it up as her fantasist toy boy and Fitzgerald's Ralph is so nutty that he seems to be from another movie altogether.
Continue reading: Girl Most Likely Review
Scott Mechlowicz plays Dan (which, sure; if an actor is playing you, you definitely want it to be the guy who is a dead ringer for Brad Pitt, only 20 years younger), a hotshot gymnast at Berkeley who is unhappy, despite being a star athlete with great grades and an endless stream of eager co-eds. One middle-of-the-night, Dan happens upon a full-service gas station manned by the gruff-voiced, mysterious Socrates (Nick Nolte), a man who speaks only in platitudes and riddles and seems capable of the impossible.
Continue reading: Peaceful Warrior Review
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