Friday, August 28, 2009

Gothika

Miranda Grey has a good life working with the criminally insane at a mental institution. She is the head therapist and her husband Douglas is in charge of the institution. One night she leaves late in the middle of a downpour and has to take an alternate route home. Half way there she gets in an accident where she sees a burning woman. Three days later Miranda wakes up to find that she is now in the institution because she went home and killed her husband; Miranda insists on her innocence and proceeds to try to find out what really happened while being used by a vengeful spirit and locked in with her former patients.

Gothika is a movie I avoided when I was in film school. I just was not really into Halle Berry after Monster’s Ball, I’m still not the biggest Berry fan. However, I finally broke down and netflixed it when I saw that Robert Downey Jr. was in it, and it was one of his first big films after he was out of prison.

This is an interesting movie. I’d never heard of director Mathiue Kassovitz before but if Gothika is any indication he has a stunningly visual eye; Gothika is an incredibly well shot movie that uses a monotone color palette in a way that somehow makes it pop off the screen. His use of shadows, color, light and movement was the first thing that drew me into the film. Shockingly it was the story and performances that kept me there.

I will be very forward in saying that Gothika is not as original as it thinks it is; while the story is pretty similar to most European/Asian horror, it still has it’s clich├ęd and predictable moments – the camera movements that clue you into the coming jump, the sound ques, etc. But it does execute them pretty dang well. I actually jumped at one of the jump moments – something that I don’t normally do. But it is predictable, maybe just because I watch so many movies but I was able to figure out a few of the upcoming plot points. It was still pretty entertaining though.

I also found that I liked Halle Berry & Penelope Cruz; both are actresses that I don’t normally enjoy because I think they don’t really do much to add to their characters (other than add sex appeal) but I think Gothika gave them a chance to play different characters and step outside of the pretty girl box. Of course I loved Robert Downey Jr. as well, but we all know that basically goes without saying.

What keeps Gothika from being a really good movie is the end of the film, not the last act but literally about the last 3 minutes of the film. It feels like a studio tack on ending, something that was added because the studio was afraid of Halle Berry’s character having to face up with the dark things that had been done through her when she was possessed. Instead, they literally jump from the denouement where some character threads and questions should be answered to a year later as Penelope Cruz & Halle Berry walk down a street discussing how they are in better mental places now. Everything that you want to see about Miranda, her patients, the doctors and the aftermath of the whole incident is just gone – brushed under an invisible rug and we are in a totally different locale. It feels like a cheat and makes the last hour plus you’ve spent in the world feel like a waste of your time.

If the ending were better, Gothika would be a pretty dang good movie.
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz
Writer: Sebastian Gutierrez
Miranda grey: Halle Berry
Pete Graham: Robert Downey Jr.
Douglas Grey: Charles S. Dutton
Sheriff Ryan: John Carroll Lynch
Phil Parsons: Bernard Hill
Chloe: Penelope Cruz

Chloe: You are not a Doctor in here. And even if you the tell the truth... no one will listen. You know why? Because you're crazy. And the more you try to prove them wrong, the crazier you'll appear. You are invisible now. Can you feel it?

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