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.