Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Clearing

Just watched The Clearing, with Robert Redford, Helen Mirren and Willem Dafoe. Superb cast; not so superb a movie. It's a bit slow for its own good, and even though a lot of it is character-based, the writing isn't sharp enough to make the characters interesting. All three do excellent and subtle work with what they have, but it's not quite enough. Only Mirren makes the thing work; without her it would be altogether a dud. The lack of depth in the characters is most evident in the two adult children who appear: Alessandro Nivola and Melissa Sagemiller struggle to find anything to work with, and none of their scenes actually give them any reason to be in the movie at all.
The time-shifting is clever, and works. The photography is excellent - even allowing us to see every chink and crevice in Redford's aging face. He was 68 when the movie came out, and he looks it. It's almost as if the moviemakers decided for once not to pretend that he was anything but the age he is, which makes it a bit odd that he's still going off to work each day. (For the record, Mirren was 59 at the time, and Dafoe, the baby, was only 49.)
In the end the thing is disappointing. You're hoping for some denouement. It never quite comes, and it's almost as if the movie hasn't made up its mind whether it's a clever psychological thriller or a love story. It seems to opt for the latter in the end, leaving the thriller out in the cold.

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