So, for no particular reason other than that I had quite a few DVDs I hadn’t yet got round to watching, the other weekend I decided to splurge on Christina Ricci films.
Ricci is the eponymous protagonist, a poor girl rescued from a future of prostitution by a gentleman con man (John Hurt), who uses her as front woman in his schemes. Currently she’s focused on selling a hospital that’s about to be demolished to businessman Nailor, but he is not a very nice man, euphemistically speaking, and has quite definite ideas on how she should seal the deal, while handler Christian appears perfectly happy to throw his protégé to the wolf. It’s up to nice guy librarian Frank (John Simm), who falls in love with Miranda at first sight and so beguiles her that she has a one night stand that lasts for a few days, to save her from all the men with impure motives and, most essentially, from herself.
I suppose you’d label this a romantic comedy, albeit not the sort Jennifer Aniston would star in, mercifully. I suspect the various heists pulled off wouldn’t transpire quite so easily in real life, but will allow them for the sake of the story, and it’s engaging enough, with some neat twists and turns, agreeable characters, the odd laugh out loud moment (usually connected to sex) and, even though it was all rather obvious and bordering on sentimentality, I was beguiled by the main romance, the way in which the two characters were allowed to grow, Miranda dealing with her trust issues and Frank overcoming his natural caution to chase after this young woman, and let the consequences go hang. The only fly in the ointment was Kyle MacLachlan as Nailor, who seemed to be basing the character on Frank Booth from Blue Velvet. It was a performance that was a bit too over the top for my liking and rather nasty for a comedy, though at the end he was shown as a figure worthy of ridicule.
The Opposite of Sex (1998)
Ricci is the precocious Dede Truitt who, after the death of her mother’s partner, barges into the life of gay half brother Bill. Before you know what’s what she’s seduced and run off with his boyfriend, while teacher Bill is accused of molesting his students. Further complications ensue, including a pregnancy, blackmail, trips out of state, various affairs and a shooting, before it all gets sorted.
While the guys do their best, this witty film belongs to the two female leads, who neatly complement each other. Ricci as ‘sex bomb’ Dede is superb, with a huge part of the appeal lying in her narration of events, offering a witty, refreshingly caustic and uncompromisingly un-PC interpretation of what is going on. She is somebody who is not particularly bright in an academic sense, but with street smarts and a native cunning that lets her hit everyone’s buttons manipulating them to do as she wishes. Lisa Kudrow as straitlaced teacher Lucia, the sister of Bill’s deceased former partner, is the polar opposite, the kind of person the term ‘anal’ was invented to describe, continually fussing about the details while missing the big picture, ignoring what’s in front of her nose and with a God given right to lecture everybody else on their shortcomings. Each in their own way, the two women are intolerant of others. Of course, both characters grow during the course of the movie. Dede becomes a better person, even if she is loathe to admit it, one who is willing to allow others some happiness without looking for an angle. Lucia finds true love, thanks to the man she has been shunning all the way through the story, and a modicum of forgiveness for the flaws in others. It was a fun film and I enjoyed it very much.
The Gathering (2003)
Ricci is drifter Cassie, who is knocked down by a car, but mysteriously unhurt apart from the loss of her memory. She stays with the family of the female driver while she recovers. The woman’s husband is a researcher involved in the discovery of a buried church that reveals a secret dating back to the birth of Christianity. And there is a link to Cassie.
This is pretty much a straight to video film, with the plot shot through with inconsistencies and convenient coincidences. Is it really likely that a mother will invite a complete stranger into her home and allow her to take her children to school etc, or that no real efforts will be made by the authorities to discover who Cassie is? And yet, the idea behind it all is rather appealing, a variation of the Bradbury short story ‘The Crowd’, here given a religious backdrop. It’s fascinating to watch academic Kirkman piece together the puzzle and come to the realisation of what is going on, and similarly witness Cassie unravel the mystery of her own identity, even if the viewer is at least two steps ahead of the characters throughout. The final ‘chase’ and scenes of redemption were rather formulaic, and again hardly surprising, but overall it was worth watching at least the once.
Now this was a strange one. Ricci is Anna, who is involved in a car accident and wakes up on a slab inside the home of funeral director Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson). He tells her that she is dead, and that he is somebody with the power to talk to the recently deceased and help them come to terms with their condition. But as the story progresses you wonder what is really going on, if Anna is really dead, if Deacon is in fact a serial killer who preys on those he feels are wasting their lives, as Anna was.
Initially I wasn’t very struck with this, not liking the characters or believing in the situation, and wondering what the hell an actor of Neeson’s stature was doing in what appeared to be, essentially, a rather naff and low budget horror movie. But with patience comes enlightenment, and as events unfold we get a tense life or death struggle, wrapped up in a creepy plot that feeds on our fears of the worst happening. Neeson’s performance is very unsettling, demonstrated in his obvious attraction to the dead, the way in which he traduces a young boy to work with him, and the way in which he half convinces Anna to accept his version of what has happened to her despite common sense and all evidence to the contrary, and the ending is uncompromisingly bleak. And so, although I still can’t quite believe that things would go down like this in reality, I was won over by the audacity of the execution.
What’s your favourite Christina Ricci movie?
And a no-prize to anyone who knows the significance of this blog post’s title without checking on imdb first.