Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
USA, 2012. Red Crown Productions, Weinstock Productions, 10th Hole Productions, KODA Entertainment, 120dB Films, Dreambridge Films, , Image Entertainment. Screenplay by Nancy Doyne, Carroll Cartwright, based on the novel by Henry James. Cinematography by Giles Nuttgens. Produced by Daniel Crown, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, William Teitler, Charles Weinstock. Music by Nick Urata. Production Design by Kelly McGehee. Costume Design by Stacey Battat. Film Editing by Madeleine Gavin. Toronto International Film Festival 2012.
Henry James’s novel, about a couple’s divorce seen through the eyes of their precocious little girl, is updated to modern day with an opaque Onata Aprile playing the tot who is torn between bickering parents Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan. The upper class origins of the novel’s couple have been turned into the current Manhattan version of aristocracy, Coogan an art dealer and Moore a rock star (who is never convincing as a musician) whose breakup is acidic at every step and who use their child against each other at every possible opportunity. When they both take up with new spouses, he with their former maid and she with a handsome musician friend (Alexander Skarsgard), it sets the conflict further in motion as they seem to be completely oblivious to the effect their selfishness has on their daughter. There’s no denying that modernizing the story is a risky move given that the subject of divorce would have been far more cutting edge in 1897 than it is now, and perhaps filmmakers Scott McGehee and David Siegel are seeking to prove the eternal nature of vulnerable human relationship behavior by describing how little has changed in over a century. The failure, however, is that a novel that did a terrific job of describing adult behavior from a child’s keen point of view is now resting well outside her perspective, replacing acute observation of a young person’s mind with a boring exploration of her constantly blank face and even more absent emotional life.