REVIEW: Hysteria

16 10 2012

In high school, I was incredibly involved in the close analysis of theatre. In college, I’ve switched over almost exclusively to film.  But since I write a blog reviewing movies, I think you probably know which medium I favor.

So you may be surprised to hear me recommend that you read a play rather than watch a movie, but the invention of the vibrator has been done better by a playwright.  While “Hysteria” is fine and dandy – OK, that was being way too nice, it was actually vapid and unremarkable in every way – the topic has been handled with far more thought by Sarah Ruhl in “In The Next Room (The Vibrator Play).”  Ruhl’s play was nominated for a Tony Award; I think Tanya Wexler’s film will be lucky to compete for a spot in my year-end most forgettable list.

Ruhl understood that there’s a very strong parallel between what happened in the Victorian era with women’s health and sexuality and what is happening now.  When such a relevance is inherent in the material, you can’t ignore that!  But Wexler does, and her film suffers from being cursory and surface-level to the point of fault.

If you’ve read “In the Next Room” and then watch “Hysteria” (which admittedly few probably have), you will undoubtedly be disappointed in Wexler’s blunder.  But even if you haven’t read the Ruhl play, I still think you’ll be disappointed … just in a different way.

You’ll find the film has no urgency.  You’ll find the romance between Hugh Dancy’s Dr. Granville and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s loony Charlotte Dalrymple is unconvinced and undeveloped.  You’ll find that, whether you watch from intellect or for humor, there are better ways to be stimulated.  Pun fully intended.  C / 





REVIEW: Adam

18 09 2009

It really is a treat when movies like “Adam” come along.  It is a movie that tugs, rather yanks, on your heartstrings and never lets go.  It is, to quote my friend, “overflowing with cuteness.”  This is due mainly in part to the poignant and touching performance from Hugh Dancy as the titular character who is stricken with Asperger’s syndrome.  With every line, the emotional connection he forges with the audience deepens until it gets to a point where he just slaps a big smile on your face that won’t soon go away.

After the death of his father, Adam (Dancy) is thrust into self-sufficiency and loneliness, left with some frozen macaroni-and-cheese and astronomy charts for solace.  But when an attractive woman moves into an apartment upstairs, things begin to change for him.  Beth (Rose Byrne) gradually falls head over heels for Adam’s charm and begins to introduce him to a world that to him seems farther away than the most distant planets and stars – the one that lies just outside of his door.  With the best of intentions, she thrusts him into situations that require him to read people’s emotions, a skill which is severely inhibited by Asperger’s.  Beth loves Adam, but she misguidedly equates this sentiment to caring for a small child, taking a similar approach to him as she does to the young students she teaches.  And as Adam begins to develop a more acute sense of emotions through the relationship, this tactic can only lead to trouble.

Playing someone afflicted with a condition like Adam is like walking a very thin tightrope, and Dancy walks across with poise and finesse.  Never for a second did I doubt the sincerity of the performance.  Byrne is also absorbing as Beth, but at some points, she came off as a little too whiny and it got a little bit under my skin.  But the star of the movie is undeniably Dancy, if I haven’t made myself blatantly clear already.

“Adam” was the first movie I saw after watching “The Graduate,” which has already had a significant impact on how I watch movies.  I need more time to fully absorb what I saw before I can write a full post on it, but the main lesson I took from “The Graduate” is that when the camera is in the hands of a skilled director, every shot and scene has a purpose.  In “Adam,” I noticed the symbolism in a scene that I normally would have dismissed as a filler and why they bothered to make Adam so obsessed with the stars.  But not every movie is like this, and I commend writer/director Max Mayer for making every second of the movie shine with radiant brilliance.

Despite everything else that I have raved about for five paragraphs, none of the aforementioned achievements is what makes “Adam” so special.  It is absolutely sensational how wide of a grin spreads across your face while watching it and how happy it makes you feels upon exiting.  The movie infects you with a giddy euphoria, a sensation which will linger like a welcome houseguest for days.  And for me personally, the movie inspired me to be more caring and patient with people who don’t necessarily have Asperger’s syndrome, but are maybe a little reluctant to come out of their shell.  “Adam” is a miraculous achievement in film, a sentimental and jubilant cinematic love story.  A / 4stars