Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5
USA, 2006. Lions Gate Films, L.I.F.T. Production, DMK Mediafonds International, Inferno Distribution. Screenplay by Tracy Letts, based on his play. Cinematography by Michael Grady. Produced by Brian Gerber, Lysa Heslov, Kate Margolis. Music by Theodore Shapiro. Production Design by Christopher Tandon. Costume Design by Abigail Nieto. Film Editing by John Binninger.
A lonely Oklahoma woman (Ashley Judd) spends her nights working in a bar and her days hiding out in the motel room where she lives. After fellow waitress Lynn Collins brings over a friend (Michael Shannon) for an evening of drinking and drugs, he ends up sticking around, the two of them drawn to each other despite the danger of Judd’s violent ex-husband (Harry Connick Jr.) showing up.
Shannon reveals that he is ex-army and AWOL, being chased by soldiers who want him for mental experiments that they performed on him during his service. She, already mentally enfeebled by abuse, drugs and the loss of her child years earlier, comes to care for him and the two hunker down in their little hovel and shut the rest of the world out.
Unfortunately, the downside to their new paradise is that it is infested with bugs that are eating them alive but don’t seem to affect the people who visit them. This foray into psychological confusion is intelligently written and directed, but far too unpleasant to be stomached. William Friedkin is too happy to show the ugly side of every possible situation, while the moments that could be ironically uplifting, the way these characters reach out to each other for instance, is instead made grimy and sinister.
The performances are top-drawer, Judd particularly frightening as a woman with no independent personal compass, but the descent into a dark inner world is grim and not redeemed by any person or occurrence. Based on the play by Tracy Letts, and the stagebound setting really shows.