If you were expecting some insight into the mind of Canada's most notorious female murderer, don't expect much from this film. This isn't like watching Charlize Theron eerily transform into Aileen Wuornos. Although Laura Prepon does her best, she lacks a proper script, a competent director, and a sufficient budget. After seeing credible news documentaries and that creepy interview Homolka gave to Radio-Canada in the summer of 2005 upon her release, Prepon seems to be playing someone completely different, a victim of circumstance and abuse rather than someone who willingly made some very poor choices and destroyed many lives. Where are the accounts of the real Homolka complaining about her father's grief over the death of her sister Tammy (who died as a result of Homolka's involvement) and the brief return she made shortly after her arrest to her St. Catharine's home wearing a schoolgirl's uniform, when she was more concerned about having the police divvy up her belongings from her husband Paul's than the fact that she was entering the same house where the rapes and murders occurred. By painting an obviously inaccurate portrait of Homolka, Joel Bender discredits his own film. At least in Monster, we see Wuornos' difficulty in escaping her environment, but we also see her responsibility in making some terrible decisions. By softening Homolka, we don't struggle with the public's perception of her as evil because her portrait just seems false.
The look of the film reminds me of a standard '80s television crime drama, which is a little tired, but not unattractive. However, the transitions between scenes appear clumsy. Misha Collins also tries his best as Paul Bernardo, but the script lets him descend too easily and quickly to raving lunatic. Collins' Bernardo screams "player" and "creep" from his first appearance. The real Bernardo is baby-faced and has a blank, innocent stare.
I was warned against seeing this film, so of course, I had to see it. I went in having only read a brief interview with Bender stating that the story would stick to recorded events and that the ultimate verdict regarding Homolka's guilt or innocence would be left up to viewers. Trust me, this film does take a stance and points the finger of blame squarely on Bernardo. Sanctifying Homolka reminds of that episode of "The Simpsons" where Mr. Burns writes his autobiography and paints himself not as Machiavelli's successor but as the world's hero.
POTENTIAL SPOILER: Are the only Asians in this Film Stock Characters and Extras?
I won't rehash the plot since others have already done so. Although I applaud the film for its frank approach to racism, I can't help but feel that the Asian characters were treated in a very cursory and shallow manner. There is no fully-realized and complex Asian character in a film that supposedly looks at a broad spectrum of cultures that make up contemporary Los Angeles. We get a shrill "dragon lady" stereotype with broken English and a mild-mannered Korean man who has barely two lines in the entire film and turns out to be a snake-head/human trafficker. . . And don't tell me the insurance guy counts. Paul Haggis, I commend you for your work, but if you wish to have Asian characters in a film about race relations, please take the time and effort to create someone with depth, feeling, and all the complexities of your competing characters.
It's a shame. Canada produces some very biting programming, but don't look for any originality, cleverness or interest on this show. The premise is simple, a bunch of passengers interact (i.e. talk) while taking a commuter train. The writing attempts to provide a mix of social commentary and ordinary nonsense dialogue (as in Seinfeld) but strives only to highlight uninspired script shortcomings (Hello? Character stakes/goals? Story arcs?) The actors are not bad, but they suffer from inferior lines and direction (this is television, not a play, hence the urgent need for NUANCE.) If I were stuck on a train with these people, I would tune out--which is exactly what I do when I see this playing on TV.
I am compelled to write a review of this IMAX feature as a means of warning others to SAVE YOUR MONEY. Almost any episode of Desmond Morris' "The Human Animal" or David Suzuki's "The Nature of Things" could have bested the material presented. Not only does the director fail to make use of IMAX's incredible 65 to 70 mm film stock and gigantic presentation screen, everything on screen is extremely unimpressive given the accessibility of such programming mentioned previously. Viewers are introduced to a pregnant Heather, her husband Buster, and their niece and nephew. We follow them for an interminable forty-odd minutes as they eat, sweat, listen to music, etc. Although we are given access to scenes inside the human digestive track and learn about babies' natural diving reflexes, do we really learn anything more than most grade-school graduates? Are we even remotely entertained by the trans-Atlantic Heather? Do we care? Avoid this film at all cost. If you do wish to see an IMAX feature, I suggest the beautifully photographed "India: Kingdom of the Tiger" or the technically thrilling "Space Station 3D". Trust me.
I swear, if I have to see another shot of a tear rolling down a cheek, I'll scream. I would have bought this film were it not for the last fifteen minutes. I actually left the theatre laughing, and this film wasn't a comedy. I won't bore you with a plot summary but be forewarned: save your money! The major problem with this film is sentimentality. It takes itself too seriously for a movie about comic books. There is such a heavy-handed sense of grief for its entire duration that the resolution becomes awkward and thus ludicrous. Jackson and Willis compete with each other to see who can maintain a sad, puppy-dog look the longest. Robin Wright is wasted in a film where she utters no more than five lines with an incredible sincerity. SAVE YOUR MONEY! SAVE YOUR MONEY! SAVE YOUR MONEY!
Dancer In the Dark is not a technically perfect film. Nor is it without some extremely corny segues into song and dance. However, it is probably the bravest film I have ever seen. Von Trier takes a huge risk with this tale, its format, and its lead. Bjork is not the best actor ever to grace the screen, but no one else could have played this role with the same conviction and charm. I left this movie shaken.
MacIvor's award-winning play doesn't quite cut it as a film. The characters presented in the "Humans" section of the published version of "House" are invited to hear Victor's (MacIvor) rant. Although Victor's story remains true to the play, all to often we are dragged out of his engrossing tale to get meaningless and dragged-out reactions from the audience. Who cares what they think? MacIvor is such a wonderful performer that you could leave the camera in front of him and slap a release date on the film canister. The only time the other characters work as a film device is when we follow them on their individual stories as narrated by Victor. Besides this fundamental flaw, the film is beautifully shot and the closing sequence when Victor finds himself outside are magical. I do hope Lynd and MacIvor team up to film his other plays and learn to trust that the one-man show format is enough to create a interesting film.