Monday, July 6, 2015
Review: STRANGERLAND Has Not Restored My Faith in Nicole Kidman Movies
Serious question: Is Nicole Kidman the most wildly inconsistent actresses of this generation? If not in at the top, she certainly has to be in the top five actresses that fall into that category. I can ask this because there are movies she's been in that have been genuinely impressive (The Hours, The Others), but then there are a slew of preposterous films like The Paperboy, Stoker and Trespass. And hell, let's also add Rabbit Hole and Nine on that list because they never get the "awful film" stamp they deserve. Now we can throw in STRANGERLAND with that bunch. Because, my, it was a headscratcher in the worst way possible.
STRANGERLAND is one of the worst kind of bad films, in that it presents itself to be such a great film--takes itself way too seriously--all the while being an incomprehensible mess. Let me set this up for you: Kidman plays Catherine, a distressed mother (in the beginning we don't really know why she's appears so frazzled all the time, but an incident actually happens later that validates her perpetual state). All of a sudden her son and daughter vanish, leaving she and her husband Matthew (Joseph Fiennes) distraught, searching high and low on their desert terrain. Meanwhile, Catherine is in such agony that she...throws herself at every man who crosses her path. And Matthew takes out his anger on nearly the entire town, beating up one man in the process.
That's pretty much the gist of the film, which meanders for nearly two hours without getting to an actual point. I guess you would call this a "meditation on grief," here meaning a really boring film that's muddled by its own pretentiousness and lame attempt to become a smart mystery with its eerie score and strange editing. When Catherine attempts to seduce these men, it's seen as an act of desperation. But what makes it more perplexing is that it's never explained. These scenes happen, then the film just shifts back to the central plot of the missing children. Both main characters are woefully underdeveloped, an issue that is further complicated by the dangling subplots featuring other characters whose stories as weak.
So why is it called STRANGERLAND? We never really find out, especially since everyone seem to know each other in the small town. Or maybe they tell us at a point after which I had already given up on the film (I'd say about half way through it). Who knows. While I always commend a woman director (in this case Kim Farrant) for stepping outside the confines of a "chick flick," I just can't with this film.
STRANGERLAND opens in theaters and on demand on Friday, July 10.
Rating: F (no stars)