Monday, July 7, 2008

A Frank Review of "Birth" and "The Invasion"

I really enjoyed Jonathan Glazer's directorial debut, "Sexy Beast," and had high hopes for his follow-up "Birth." Once again, the focus is on an exceptional romantic relationship outside the age range typically found in films. This time though, there was quite a difference, as Nicole Kidman's character is middle-aged, and the potential reincarnation of her first husband is now ten years old. The premise is handled intelligently and tactfully, though Kidman is kind enough to get naked for us once more, mostly outside the boy's presence. The film will keep you guessing, if it manages to hold your interest, which it very well may not. It's all terribly sophisticated in that Adrian Lynne way, but lacks the tawdry bits that keeps audience members from squirming impatiently in their seats. I respect "Birth," but I'll never watch it again, as I spent the running time wishing I was watching "Chances Are" instead. Cameron Bright is a personality void, after all, where Robert Downey Jr. is so damned appealing.

Meanwhile, "The Invasion" stands head and shoulders beneath the three other cinematic depictions of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." It's essentially a love story between a mother and her child, and I mean that in a prurient sense. The only thrill the film contains is a scene where momma Kidman consoles her child after a nightmare in pajamas so sheer her nipples and ass are visible right through the material. The whole movie, Kidman demonizes her ex-husband, who attempts to seperate her from the boy-love of her life, whom she constantly text and video messages. She also fends off the advances of Daniel Craig, which is somewhat understandable, but still. I'm not calling Kidman a Pedobear but perhaps "PedoLemur" wouldn't be too far off the mark? The woman did spend the best years of her life pretending to have sex with a handsome midget man-boy who believes in space aliens that inhabit human bodies, so in that context all this ick makes a sick sort of sense.

It's a good thing I had my WAMBLA Cougar speculation to keep me going, as "The Invasion" plays like a mash-up between Lifetime Network and Sci-Fi Channel original productions. It's estro-riffic, but epically fails to understand what makes a good "Body Snatchers" flick. The first two (a.k.a. "the good ones) were Right Wing paranoid fantasy writ large, and God bless them for their effectiveness. The original warned of Reds under the beds, while the second tried to ward off the rampant Liberalism of the Carter years. My politics are way left of Don Siegel's, but his film works magnificently, as did Philip Kaufman's New Age-skewering remake. The third tried to play to my people with fear of the military-industrial complex, a non-issue in the Clinton years. Today, you could definately equate "Pod People" with Post-9/11 nationalistic jackassery, but this movie tries to run with with SARS. The pussyfooting attempts to straddle the polemic of our times, but like 1993's "Body Snatchers," proves too late to the party to bring the fear.

Kidman tried to affect a Scarlett O'Hara "ah do declare" Georgian accent, but it fades in and out with such regularity, you'd be forgiven for forgetting it entirely. This may be the result of extensive reshoots, which tried to beef up original director Oliver Hirschbiegel's Eurotrash blase with the post-Matric Trilogy bombast of the Wachowski Brothers. There's another "Burley Brawl" of a sort here, and the silliness is so profound as to almosy turn the corner from "so bad" to "good." Not quite, but there be embarrassed amusement here.

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