Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Savage Grace

A week or so ago, me and Paula were invited for a meal by our friend Viv, with the suggestion that we then take in a post-prandial movie. Nothing at the multiplex grabbed our attention (I had a yen to see ‘The Duchess’, but neither Paula nor Viv like costume dramas) and we were of divided opinion on the films showing at the Broadway.

So we turned our attention to the Screen Room – officially the smallest cinema in the world (it’s as cosy and intimate as watched a professionally projected movie in your living room; their concessions stand even offers coffee and cake). They were showing ‘Savage Grace’. Beyond the fact that it starred the always-watchable Julianne Moore and was based on a true story, none of us knew much about the film.

So it was that we toddled off to see ‘Savage Grace’. Since Viv had cooked for us, I did the honourable thing, pulled out my ‘Pulp Fiction’-stylee BAD MOTHERFUCKER wallet, and stumped up for the tickets.

Early scenes were low-key and talky; the film opened out cinematically in its middle section (it’s structured in six ‘chapters’ covering different periods of time and geographical locations as its protagonists waltz through four decades of dysfunctionalism), then returned to dull interiors in its closing stages. It was waspishly scripted, powerfully acted and anaemically directed. There wasn’t a single character you could motivate yourself actually to give a damn about.

But, in parts, it proved curiously gripping. And then. About an hour and a half in …


… emotionally unstable socialite Barbara Baekeland (Moore), crosses the line in terms of maternal affection with her sexually confused son Tony (Eddie Redmayne) and some Oedipal shenanigans ensue. When sonny-boy informs mommy-dearest that, ahem, he didn’t reach completion, she finishes the job with a bit of the old five-fingered widow.


Imagine the three of us sitting there: Viv was staring at the screen in shocked silence, Paula’s head was in her hands and I’d suddenly taken a profound interest in my shoelaces.

A little later, after …


… sonny-boy stabs mommy-dearest with a kitchen knife during an argument then makes two phone calls, one for an ambulance, one to order a Chinese (the meal arrives before the ambulance: I have got to get the number of that takeaway!) …


… we wandered out into a particularly rainy night and compared notes. “That’s an hour and a half of my life I won’t have again,” Paula opined. My opinion was that ‘Savage Grace’ should have been a French or Italian movie from the 70s, subtitled and angst-y, the kind of movie you could tut over as you left the cinema, shaking your head and coming out with something like “Honestly, those Europeans …”

Viv’s final word was succinct and priceless. “You know what it says on your wallet,” she said; “well, now you’ve actually seen one.”

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