Monday, August 03, 2009

Movie Review: Orphan

You'd think I would learn. When it comes to movies, trust your instincts, Dade.

Maty and I went to see Jaume Collet-Serra's latest effort, Orphan, on Friday night. I had not seen any of his previous efforts, and he's a relatively new director on the Hollywood scene. It's good to give new folks a try, yes?

Not that I was expecting too much, mind you. The trailer conveyed the basic plot: a successful family adopts a young girl, brings her into their home, and then finds that she is fundamentally evil. I had visions of yet another remake of Richard Donner's 1976 film, The Omen (starring Gregory Peck(!)). Perhaps not high entertainment, but a welcome diversion to occupy a couple hours in air-conditioned comfort at the tail-end of this ghastly heat wave that we, in Portland, have been enduring.

Well, as the kids these days say, "FAIL!"

Five minutes into the flick I knew it wasn't going to meet my (already low) expectations. Aside from the over-the-top scenery-chewing of Vera Farmiga in her role as Kate Coleman, the young, successful composer with a drinking problem and a dark shadow in her past, aside from the milque-toast mail-it-in performance by Peter Sarsgaard as John Coleman, her equally-successful architect husband, towering above it all is the ham-handed and inept direction of Collet-Serra.

Monsieur Collet-Serra makes liberal use of cheap, amateurish techniques to try to evoke a sense of suspense and dread in the audience. For instance, early on in the flick, Kate is driving her deaf daughter, Max (played by child-actor Aryana Engineer) home from school when a semi truck appears out of nowhere and nearly t-bones mom and daughter at an intersection. The incident did cause me to jump. But as the movie went forward, there were many more such incidents, all accompanied by the sudden shriek of violins that is typical of B-movie horror flicks. Aside from having no bearing on the plot, they became not just boring, but irritating. This is the kind of cheap, manipulative crap that has me yearning for the roll of closing credits.

Isabelle Fuhrman turns in an adequate performance as the evil Esther, the adoptee: a seeming Russian prodigy with an obscure history. And I can't fault Jimmy Bennett, in the role of Daniel Coleman, or CCH Pounder as Sister Abigail, the habit-clad (think "Flying Nun") orphanage administrator, for their performances. There's not much you can do with a script like this.

Because the story itself is so contrived, so implausible, as to strain the credulity of even the most forgiving of viewers. No, I won't put any spoilers in here. God knows there might be some who enjoy this kind of tripe and I won't ruin it for them. Let's just say that the eventual revelations (all of which come rushing headlong in the last ten minutes of this agonizing ordeal) compose a crazy-quilt of preposterous unlikelihoods that would make any pulp fiction writer blush.

Horror flick? The real horror is that there are producers gullible enough to buy a pitch from hacks like Collet-Serra.

1 comment:

Spring Thunder's Blog said...

. This one did catch my eye and I weakly pushed to go see it in the heat wave...ended up seeing "Moon" (so-so sci-fi) instead.

On the other hand, I really liked Le Orphanage.

Rhonda Shusli