Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
USA/Australia, 2001. Castle Rock Entertainment, Village Roadshow Pictures, NPV Entertainment. Screenplay by based on the novel by Cinematography by Produced by Kerry Heysen. Music by Mychael Danna. Production Design by Barbara Ling. Costume Design by Julie Weiss. Film Editing by Pip Karmel.
Pointless adaptation of Stephen King’s novel has Anthony Hopkins as a crotchety old man boarding in the upstairs floor of a house inhabited by an intelligent little boy (Anton Yelchin) and his self-indulgent mother (Hope Davis). The boy finds himself drawn to the gentleman, first because Hopkins pays him to read the newspaper to him and keep an eye out for “low men” (gangsters who want him because of sensitive knowledge he possesses), and then later because he finds the friend he’s been needing for so long a time. Yelchin’s mother is worried about the healthiness of the situation and keeps an eye cocked in their direction whenever the two are together. What the film is really about is never made clear, and a subplot involving powers of ESP is so minimally treated that it seems like it’s a last-minute throw-in to attract audiences to an otherwise unlikeable film (a lucky card game is the centrepiece of this subplot…grrrrrreat). Director Scott Hicks does even worse here than he did with Snow Falling On Cedars, and David Morse has a horribly cheesy cameo as Yelchin all grown up (his last scene is unintentionally hilarious). Davis is excellent as the odious mom, but the film’s best moments involve the wonderful Celia Weston doing her bit as a bartender with a heart of gold who gives the boy new hope in finding out more information about his late father. She’s not in it enough to really save it, but it’s a pleasure to see her all the same. A helpful hint, you can always spot the “low men” coming before anyone else in the film does because the music tells you.
Toronto International Film Festival: 2001