April 17, 2003

Mommy Issues

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It is such a different experience going into a film and not knowing anything about it. Other than reading a synopsis on www.movies.com, I knew nothing about Spider. And now I know why. In this film, starring Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson, Gabriel Byrne, and Lynn Redgrave, a man’s shattered past has caused him severe psychological damage. The film takes place in a very desolate London, England.

Fiennes stars as Dennis Cleg and starts the film on his journey to some kind of halfway house. The viewers soon learn that he has been released from an asylum. As the actual plot begins, Cleg transports us back to when he grew up and places his current self as a silent observer in the scenes of his past.

The immediate struggle with this film from the very beginning is that Cleg is not that intriguing a main character. Crazy people are portrayed so often in film, which makes the actor and director’s job that much harder to make this character different from all the rest which doesn’t happen here.

In the first fifteen minutes which consists of Cleg wondering around London mumbling to himself, I thought: “How is this character going to carry us through this film?” And sure enough, boredom set in quickly after. Cleg really never speaks real words, but I felt that the audience was supposed to get something out of his incoherent mumbling. It was also interesting to think that this is what really happens to people when they are released from mental hospitals: they wander around the streets and hopefully live in peace.

Fiennes proved his creepiness factor in Red Dragon, but this movie was a step in the wrong direction. His character was poorly developed and his intentions and goals were not clear. The story is mostly told in flashbacks. Miranda Richardson and Gabriel Byrne play Cleg’s parents. They accurately portray the unhappy married couple who are the source of all Cleg’s troubles. Lynn Redgrave plays the owner of the halfway house. Redgrave’s elderly yet respectful uniqueness as an actress always adds much to films and it is too bad we did not see more of her in this one.

The movie fell into the trap of trying to do something creative but not trying hard enough. The story had gaps, as it was from a psychologically warped individual’s perspective, but it was uninteresting and boring. Without any exposition, it just was there on the screen, moving from one gray scene to the next. There were also no connections in character-acting between Ralph Fiennes’ Cleg and Cleg as a child (awkwardly played by Bradley Hall). The reason why Cleg shows us his past is not clear. He is crazy but why and how it developed — these questions remained unanswered as the plot weakened.

London was captured accurately by cinematographer Peter Suschitzy, but like the story, it was not dark enough to keep the audience’s attention. David Cronenberg’s direction was workmanlike at best as he took a mediocre story and made a mediocre film.

There are so many good movies out there these days at the local cinemas (Fall Creek and Cinemapolis) that I would not waste your time seeing this one. I probably would have never heard of this movie and it would have been better that way.

Archived article by Cory Sinclair