Close My Eyes–Before You See It

                                                                                                2:34 p.m.          1/14/05

Close My Eyes is the current Alan Rickman fare up to bat.  If a movie is going to be a one-concept conceit, then that concept better be one hell of a winner, or the movie is going to fall singularly flat.  In this case, the conceit is an incestuous…fling between brother and sister.  I’m not giving anything away as this is tackled early on and is a part of the teaser.  Shocking?  Perhaps if the brother and sister are actually established as such.  In other words, I need to see them acting like brother and sister, not just repeatedly calling each other such and talking about whether or not their behavior is shocking.  There are no scenes with them as children or even them growing up together since their parents separated when Natalie (Saskia Reeves) was…twelve or so.  I am just supposed to find the idea of siblings having sex so shocking, I don’t care that I know nearly nothing about their relationship.  Maybe I’m just jaded beyond belief, but the ‘shock’ isn’t nearly enough to sustain my interest in this surprisingly tepid film.

Before I go on any further about the film, I want to reiterate my two criteria which immediately elevate a film one level.  Cello music and Alan Rickman.  It is my firm belief that if every movie contained both these elements, we would have much better movies in this world.  As this movie has both, I thought there was a fighting chance that it would be a good movie.  Unfortunately, there is not nearly enough of either-Alan doesn’t even show up for hours!  Well, at least for ten minutes.  Then he doesn’t show up nearly enough.  Movies, stop promoting someone as the star of the film simply because he’s the most viable name.  It’s dishonest, and it makes me like the movie even less.  Back to the review-and my attention flags for most of the movie.

Big props to the director for showing equal-opportunity full-frontal nudity.  It has been a gripe of mine for quite some time that directors, especially American ones are more than willing to show a female’s body entirely nude but not a man’s.  I know it’s because we objectify women more than men in this country so it seems tamer, but it sucks.  It’s not that I mind female full-frontal nudity, not at all.  It’s simply that there should be equal male time as well.  This movie does show the brother, Richard (Clive Owens) nude a far amount of time.  That is definitely one bonus.  That Sinclair (Alan Rickman) is not shown equally nude is a shame, but not a gender-bias.

My biggest gripe with this movie besides the fact that it’s a one-trick pony about an incestuous relationship that only matters as Natalie is married to Sinclair while she’s having sex with her brother, is that Natalie is a very poorly-written character, and the actor isn’t appealing in the slightest.  Yes, she has nice breasts, but that’s it.  She seems to think looking dewy-eyed at the camera is enough to convey emotion.  In addition, Natalie’s a nutjob who needs to be slapped down.  I can’t understand one man being attracted to her, let alone two.  I don’t buy that she and Clive Owens are brother and sister, and I don’t buy they’re sexually attracted to each other.  The scenes in which they are making out/fucking are unbelievable because there is absolutely no chemistry between the two.  Then she whines the whole time about wanting him to stop her as she kisses him, and I want to slap the shit out of her.  I haven’t been this annoyed by a character since, well, I can’t even think of a character who annoys me more than this one.

Don’t get me wrong.  This is no January Man, which I consider Alan Rickman’s worst film I’ve seen so far.  The scenes with Richard at work and dealing with a boss with AIDs (Karl Johnson as Colin-he’s quite good) are powerful, especially the one where the two of them take on the baddies, and it’s clear the nemesis is uncomfortable with the lesions on the boss’s mouth.  I laughed out loud at this scene, and it was a much refreshing break from the lame main plot.  Rickman is stellar as well as the wealthy, pompous, arrogant git who marries a much-younger woman, but treats her more like a pet than a wife.  His scenes with Owens are great, and I would be content to watch the two of them.  In fact, having the two of them launch an affair would have been great, too.  I also enjoy watching Sinclair maneuver things after he suspects Natalie is having an affair.  How he finds out is another matter, but I won’t give it away.  The fact that this movie is so close to being something good is what annoys me so much.  However, every scene with the sister is false, irritating and worst of all, dull.  The movie would have been much better off scuttling the main plot and focusing in on the minor ones.

There is no logic to the plot or to any of the characters.  It is clear that the director had a story he wanted to tell, and he doesn’t care how he got there.  Each person acts out of character because s/he has to in order for the story to end where it does.  Even then, the director pulls his punches and doesn’t go for the proper conclusion.  If he wants to go in that certain direction, he should have gone all the way.  Like I said, I’m more willing to cut slack for a director who takes a huge risk, even if it flops.  This director wants it both ways-to be provocative, but to provide a comforting ending.  Even though Rickman is outstanding in the final scene, it is a huge letdown.  So, though it pains me to say this, I cannot recommend this for your Netflix Queue if they had it which they don’t.  Stellar acting by Rickman, the gorgeous cello music, and a deft performance by Owens (it’s not his fault the director played havoc with his character development) aren’t enough to save this movie.  If you must see a Rickman film, go watch Dogma, Dark Harbor, one of the Harry Potter flicks or even Die Hard over this uneven movie.  You’ll come away much more satisfied.

19 Responses to Close My Eyes–Before You See It

  1. As one Alan Rickman fan to another (his screen presence got me through every Harry Potter movie as well as Sweeny Todd), I am right there with you on using a big name to sell a lousy film. You make this movie sound sadly like so many others – just a mixed up vehicle to sell a sex-based, titillating, shocking story. How many movies do we watch these days trying to ignore the fact that a lot of things are left unexplained, there are too many bumpy, ill-explained transitions from scene to scene, wondering why certain actors were chosen for a part…. This is a spot on great review!

  2. Jamie, thanks for being the first to comment on my blog–besides two spams I received.

    This movie was so close to being really good–if they just cut the female lead entirely from it. I know, I know, then it would have been a totally different film–a GOOD one. Still, if you’re an Alan Rickman fan, it’s worth seeing.

  3. Is this yet another movie that just shows male frontal nudity ? If so, it continues the double standard that has exisited for quite awhile. Within this past year and the beginning of the this year, there have been 7 mainstream movies which featured male frontal nudity only. Where is the equality in that ? And that doesn’t even include the copious amounts of male frontal nudity in plays and on many HBO series. Yes, I want equality also. It is about time to show the female genital area as much as the male genital area. If this movie doesn’t do that, then I would hope since you say you are interested in equality that you will be noting a concern to include it. However, I sense that won’t happen, if you are female, because it seems many females are only interested in equality when it benefits themselves.

  4. Hi, Tim. Welcome to my blog. I would like to point out that it is MY blog, which means that I am speaking only for me. As I pointed out in my Welcome post, it’s a look into my brain. I am not all females just as Clive Owen’s penis is not all men’s penises.

    In addition, you might want to read this link by a prominent male online movie reviewer re: male-full-frontal nudity vs. female full-frontal nudity in movies. You will see that there is still more full-female-frontal nudity than male. In addition, when things have been so lopsided in one direction (i.e., full-frontal female nudity in R rated movies, but not full-frontal male nudity), it can seem like the previously unacceptable (full-frontal male nudity) is everywhere, when in fact, it’s just a case of a few more instances of the latter. At any rate, I AM more interested in female equality than in male equality because we still have so much less of it, and we have for such a long time. Objectification of women is so entrenched in our society, it would take more than a year of seven penises to balance it out. That would be a great name for a movie: The Year of Seven Penises. By the way, I don’t watch mainstream movies or cable, so I wouldn’t know about that.

    If you are really concerned about equality for men, you can start your own blog and blog about what needs to be done in that area. You, too, can start a movement of your own. Again, this is my blog stating my opinion, and you don’t have to read it if you don’t like it. I am posting this comment in the hopes that you actually want to engage in an honest debate rather than just fling accusations or grind a particular axe.

  5. I’d like to see The Year of Seven Penises, but only if the penises are 55 or younger, thank you.

    My cast suggestions:
    1) Clive O (yes!)
    2) The guy who played Aragorn in the LOR trilogy
    3) Karl Urban (played Eomer in the LOR trilogy)
    4) David Beckham (doesn’t have to say anything, prefer that he not do so, in fact)
    5) Rodrigo Santoro
    6) Colin Firth
    7) Nick from CSI Las Vegas

  6. Hm. Maybe I can have people come up with a list of seven penii they would most like to see, and I will write that movie. By the way, Alan Rickman would be included, and he is over 55.

  7. I too feel that the whole female-male frontal nudity thing has been way too lop-sided in one direction for too many years. Ditto relationships in general. Male full-frontal nudity, gay relationships (kissing and sex) have been long taboo from our screens, so that,as has been stated here, the few instances that we now see them just seem like so much more because there has been so little in the past.

    And as for me (call me prude, if you like), I personally don’t need or desire to watch either full-frontal nudity of any kind or gratuitous, explicit sex in the majority of the films or shows I see. I just want to see a darn good film, story line and acting, of which there seems to be less and less of these days. So there!

  8. I really can’t be bothered to watch movies in the theatre, so don’t see many. Last time I watched a movie in the theatre it was Wall-E. Mainly I buy them if I’m interested in them & they got great reviews. Mostly drawn to the art-house stuff, although I am addicted to the Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended version only!) and there is some really great stuff out there from HBO (Deadwood, Dexter, 6 Feet Under, etc).

    So, all that being the case, I don’t get exposed to much of the gratuitous sex that is so pervasive at the theatre. YAWN. That stuff is so boring for those who have matured past high school — emotionally, that is, since some 80-yr-olds probably find the crap titillating. Otherwise good films can be relegated to the trash heap, in my mind, by the gratuitous sex, which is a shame. Are they looking for thinking viewers? If they are then why did they throw in that stuff? Crazy.

    Hate to introduce a new element to this on-topic thread, but really, gratuitous violence is much more pervasive and detrimental. I cannot abide violent movies (which is why I watch the extended versions of LOR, the violence is spaced out better and in context — I covered my head for a good bit of the first one that I watched at the theatre). Then there’s the combination of the two — guess I shouldn’t even start down that road…

  9. You will have to show me proof that there has been more female frontal nudity than male frontal nudity because I don’t believe it is true. I deal more in mainstream movies, plays, and HBO new series. In those, there has been more male exposure. And, my biggest grip, is why are directors/writers/producers afarid to show the vulva ? They don’t seem to have any trouble showing male genitals. And, I don’t mean having a female posed iin any porn type positions. In today’s world many females shave and the vulva could be seen. So, let’s compare actual genital exposure and I know you can’t even come close to thinking that there has been more female than male. I am sick and tired of this constant double standard against males. My true feelings would be for equal amounts of exposure from both genders. Yes, any crerative director/writer/producer could do it. In fact, I could. But there is the problem, they don’t want to. I think after a couple years of equal exposure then both genders would start to feel more accepting and relaxed about things. It has caused a gap between males and females and it is a shame. I think it would be nice for both genders to be able to see a movie and feel comfortable about it. Neither gender should feel discriminated against. I would much rather work with females than against to try to change things. But, instead, both of us are upset about the way we perceive things and both are strong proponents of our point of view. Unfortunately, I guess it will be a case of us “having to agree to disagree.”

  10. Tim, thank you for your thoughtful response. I actually found it more believable than your initial response. However, I think it’s partly because the women’s body in its various forms has been so degraded and so used in sexualized contact that you think there is a disproportion amount of male-to-female frontal nudity. Plus, your parsing of vulva versus vagina versus breasts is, quite frankly, disingenious. It’s only because the breasts are shown willy-nilly that it is no longer considered scandulous. Women’s body are still viewed, in the media, as mainly vehicles for men’s sexual pleasure. For a woman, her vagina IS part of the genitalia–at least in the way it is portrayed and what it symbolizes. The vulva does not equal the penis. In addition, making women shave off their pubic hair to show the vulva is infantilization (and disturbing), in my opinion.

    You see things from one level and one view point. I see things from another that takes into account more issues than you care to acknowledge, as evidenced by the fact that this issue came up in a throw-away paragraph in this review. You decided to make it your agenda–that’s your prerogative. I decided it’s not my agenda–that is mine.

  11. Uh, do we REALLY need to talk about why vulvas are not shown? A little trickier to see without going porn…and let’s not bring this into the discussion. FACT: naked and nude images of women have always been more prevelant than those of men. The first camera was used to take pictures of naked women and so goes the course of history up to present day films. REALLY…

  12. I’ve seen a few shaved vulvas in non-porn films lately, so they’re out there:) No, I haven’t bothered to count the occurrences.

    Tim1974’s response raises more questions about his motivation than anything else. Most of all, his comment completely misses the heart of the matter, and focuses instead on his discomfort over seeing another cock in a non-porn film.

    You talk about how the only female character in the movie is poorly written. That the actress playing her cannot act. She’s really treated as little more than a foil for the emotional and sexual motivations of the male characters. What a tired, familiar story. Maybe this person should count the number of times last year that a female actress appeared nude onscreen AND was a decent actor, with a moderately well-written character. Can he name seven films from 2008 that fit these criteria?

    Of course, considering the frequency of female full-frontal nudity in films, his odds aren’t as bad as one might think.

  13. Choolie, thank you for your thoughtful response. Yeah, I could have mentioned all that, but then I would have to have mentioned the inherent assumption he makes that the all-mighty penis is somehow the standard by which all female body parts are to be measured. I didn’t feel like getting into the objectification of women that proliferate in the culture, so much to the point that a woman breast feeding is seen as obscene in some states. Showing a breast to sell cars? That’s fine. A woman with a baby’s head covering her breast? Heresy. Again, the assumption is that the female body is available strictly for the pleasure and usage of men.

    In addition, I would have had to add the part about the very narrow range of roles available to women. I didn’t feel like dissecting that as well. I mean, it has gotten better over time, but still, as women age, they are quickly shoved into even stricter boxes. Of course, I am talking about white, straight women roles. Let’s not even get into the minority issue.

    Hm. I guess I got into it, after all. Funny how it all misses the damn point of the review. Thanks again for commenting.

  14. Well all the comments you are making are intersting points and ones that I might like to discuss. For you see, there are some areas that you mentioned that I agree with. However, my response is the basic about more male frontal nudity in mainstrteam movies, plays, and new HBO series. I would be more than willing to list the male genital exposure as compared to the female genital exposure just within this last year with Choolie. It is by far more male. I have the list of shows to prove my point. To me it has become a double standard bias aginst males in reference to frontal nudity only. Now with that said, I am not taking anythjing else into consideration, just the nudity. There is certainly more to both males and females than nudity but that was where I was coming from. I realize there is exploitation in other media venues. I do not like to see either gender discriminated against for any reason. There are males who are made to look dumb also in TV commericals. If you would like to, I would enjoy sharing my feelings and beliefs on various topics. It may be interesting to see how many areas that we actually have in common. And, when we disagree it will be done in a respectful manner for both. Who knows, maybe we can even share a laugh along the way. (Ok, is that stretching it too far ?) We also don’t always have to discuss controversial topics. I’m in if you are. I guess it will be the dicussion version of, “If you show me yours, I will show you mine.” I am talking about your ideas of course. Hope you didn’t think it meant something else. It is ok to tease I assume. I hhope you accept because I think it could be fun and may provide some different perspective for both of us. Thanks for considering it.