Saturday, 23 May 2009
This film was always going to have to do well to shake off the shackles of that pretentious title, something it singularly fails to do. It opens with a caption ‘Based on a true story’ which is always a kiss of death for me - either it’s true or it’s not anything else is just a confused muddle that leaves you none the wiser at the end.
The film sets its agenda early on with the lead, Thora Birch being convicted for murder. We then go back to 1977 with the narrative jumping around like a kangaroo on acid. A man tells the police of a dead body and they quickly dig the bashed up corpse from the snow. We then jump again with the dead guy running around with hookers. Then he’s dead again and the cops lead by the always dependable Keith Carradine looking for someone to pin the crime on.
In truth the non-linear story is well handled and while the film is no ‘Pulp Fiction’ or ‘Memento’ they at least make an effort to jazz up what is essentially quite a straightforward story. Thora plays a complex role of a hooker who has two names and dates at least two blokes will carrying on her business. One is a bit simple and is persuaded to take out a life insurance policy benefiting the tart. The other is our murder victim who in flash back rewrites his will giving our girl all his stuff. Clearly she has persuasive talents but her motivations aren’t totally clear and enough is unseen to give us doubts as to who exactly did what and to whom.
The detective angle is pretty lazily handled with no actual detecting of note going on. Basically the cops wander around picking up the pieces and sleep in stake out cars. The end clearly is no surprise as it finishes where it started to you have to wonder was the journey worth the effort? The answer is clearly ‘No’. The captions at the end which gives an update on the main protagonist assumes that we should care for her situation and frankly I didn’t. Her character is so unsympathetic and poorly defined that I couldn’t care if she got the gas chamber or a slap on the wrists.
The 1977 setting was well realised with some hideous fashions and haircuts but it takes more than a few pairs of flairs to immerse you in another age. Birch is pretty unconvincing as the femme fatale who has the men queuing up you give her all their possessions and her main beau is so wishy-washy that you’re willing him to keep seasoning his chilli to make sure.
The film has a bleak out look throughout and allied to it’s snowy backdrop this is certainly no spirit raiser. At the end of the film I was unsure where it’s loyalties lay - our girl is clearly a cow but was she a victim herself? The captions suggest that she may be but as long as she stays in the clink there’ll be no chance of a sequel and that suits me fine.
Best Bit : Mmmm chilli
‘W’ Rating : 5/23