Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Passion (2012)

Holy smokes! What in the world was Brian De Palma, the maker of such acclaimed films as "Carrie" (1976) and "Scarface" (1983) smoking really!? "Passion" (2012) which deservedly got extremely limited release seems to lack any real passion, be it from its actors or its maker.

A sly advertising executive Christine (Rachel McAdams), with her glossy lipstick and over-the-top, bitchy mannerisms is as confused about her sexuality as she is arrogant with her subordinates. So while her employees are not facing her ire for not meeting deadlines, and while she is not busy having a masked, kinky romp with her hen-pecked lover Dirk (Paul Anderson), her assistant Isabelle, a horribly miscast Noomi Rapace with a horrendous fringe hairdo and a put-on accent, becomes the object of her lust. "Now I just want to be loved", Christine tells Isabelle in the back of the car as she proceeds to kiss her while a visibly confused Isabelle wonders what the hell is going on with Christine and also with the script.

An opportunity for Isabelle, at climbing the corporate ladder and upping her credibility as an Ad expert, is thwarted by Christine when she steals credit for one of Isabelle's major accomplishments. What follows are upsets, counter-actions, rivalries, humiliations, and a bizarre lesbian love triangle that is as half-baked as this film, with Isabelle's assistant Dani (Karoline Herfurth) joining as the third stand of the tripod. Poor Isabelle is at the center; lusted after by her boss as well as her assistant! What happens later? Well, this is a De Palma thriller. Against a "Psycho"-like soundtrack a similar knife-murder of Christine takes place. Isabelle is the immediate suspect. She even confesses to the killing. But what is the ultimate truth?

Well, the film and its screenplay, a remake (read: bastardization) of the Alain Corneau French thriller "Love Crime" aka "Crime D'Amour" (2010) is a sign of Brian De Palma finally going senile. How else do you explain the utter dabbler job that is "Passion", that takes much of the material from the French thriller, but waters it down to the level of almost pure garbage, devoid of any real thrills or logic! "Love Crime" wasn't much of a perfect film either, far from it, but at least it delivered as a decent, watchable thriller, with its believable performances, and events with a culmination that didn't entirely insult your intelligence. "Passion" is just a lackadaisical attempt at filmmaking, a real shame, coming from someone who has given us gripping thrillers like "Blow-out" (1981) in his heydays.

Apart from being a harebrained mystery, that "Passion" really isn't, to begin with, it gives ample reasons for the viewer to have fun with some laughs. Terrible dialog that is unintentionally hilarious, almost soap-operatic and delivered in a cheesy manner…"But you love me; you have to love me….please!" will have you in splits. Character intentions are meaningless and unconvincing, and the Police force more incompetent than a small child at doing their job! Gimmicky cinematic techniques like split-screen imagery that worked wonders in De Palma's own "Sisters"(1973), and did full justice to the intention of showcasing POV shots of a single event, are simply redundant here, and serve no purpose, except to give you watery eyes and a headache as you try to squint and comprehend the image.

Leaving out a number of key scenes and events in the original "Love Crime" reduces "Passion" to a crippled affair, that looks like a mystery story with gaping holes the size of craters, presumably written by a 5-year old. And perhaps De Palma had a "Sisters" hangover; adding an unnecessary and unaccomplished sub-plot (?) involving Christine's twin sister. Icing on this badly baked cake is the oh-so-terrible casting choices and fake accents that highlight the bad acting, especially from Noomi Rapace who impressed with her razor-sharp, confident performance in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (2009). She is so awkward in this, you'll refuse to believe that the woman playing Isabelle's part is the same person! Rachel McAdams gets some parts right, but in the end, looks like a deep red lipstick smeared soap-operatic drama queen and overdoes her act, taking away the much needed realism from it. Karoline Herfurth, the third wheel, cannot do much to salvage the picture anyway.

One wonders if it was intentional but the lighting in the film appears to be completely out of place, with some scenes in the workplace, for example, that are supposed to take place during work hours appear to be happening at night, with dimly lit office spaces and an overall appearance that there has been a power outage in the premises! Whether De Palma intended these sequences to produce a hallucinatory, surreal effect is unclear. Strangest choice of lighting really, and one that still boggles the mind.

Sitting through this film with raised eyebrows is a task in itself as you wait for it to end, and it certainly fails to keep you at the edge of your seat. We are eventually taken to a culmination that is laughable to say the least. Brian De Palma's "Passion" is disappointing; a new low in filmmaking from a filmmaker who has otherwise been dependable. The man has fallen…hook, line and stinker!

Score: 3/10


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