(2006) dir. William Friedkin
I’m not exactly why a film about drugged-out, hyper-paranoid people who think that their bodies are crawling with bugs sounded like something that I would want to queue up exactly. Maybe it’s all part of the make-up of my character, but the latest film from director William Friedkin (The French Connection (1971) & The Exorcist (1973)) did appeal to me, enough that I had considered seeing it in the theaters and enough that I had it highly queued up. Starring Ashley Judd, one of the Hollywood actresses that I find intensely attractive physically though I don’t go out of my way to see her films, and having gotten decent reviews, the only thing that really turned me off at all was that this was based on a play and adapted for the screen by the playwright Tracy Letts.
This has nothing to do with Letts. I have never been a fan of theater really, and I actually have not liked films that have been overly theatrical. They feel confined and artificial to me, not cinematic. And it tends to be a problem for me. It is so here, too.
Actually, I think I could attribute most of my problem with this film to that very thing. Staged almost entirely in a hotel room, the home to the highly drugged Judd, the shots of the interior feel entirely that of a set, even when we are given the exteriors of the hotel, placed in the middle of a desert off of a lonely road. Theater is limited by sets, single points of location. And it limits this film, too, in its ability to deliver reality.
Reality is a big aspect of this film because it is about the unreality of the paranoid schizophrenic and drug addict, who move from cautious oddness and quirks to full-blown psychosis in the span of an hour and forty minutes. The film reaches crescendo too quickly for my liking, too. Why Judd would suddenly take on the shared psychosis in this short period of time unless she showed some of it more early on is also difficult to take. And the drama, the climax, also in a sense has a predictability to it too.
Strangely, this criticism arises in me more, the more I think about it. Part of the film pulled me in initially, the paranoias and tics, the worrisome tensions built on unreliable characters. The difference in this is that the audience is wondering (only to an extent) if these people are crazy, whereas these things sometimes work better when you aren’t sure if they are or they aren’t. The only part of the film that plays into that is the visit of the crack-smoking psychiatrist towards the end. He’s almost like something out of the X-Files.
I don’t know. It did make me feel a bit itchy. And there were aspects of potential, where you weren’t sure where things were going to go. But in the end it’s pretty frickin’ silly.