Plotting In Cliches
Tell me if you’ve seen this movie. Anthony Hopkins plays a really smart, erudite criminal. A jealous husband shoots his wife. The good looking DA is looking to move over to the private sector where there’s oodles of money. There’s a trick. It’s the last day, but he can’t get out. Rosamund Pike plays the supportive love interest.
That’s it right here. I groaned when I read the blurb description but, hey, how bad could it get? Not too bad as it turned out.
What’s Good About It
It’s pretty slick and makes LA look sophisticated. Maye it is these days, I haven’t been there or many years but last I heard of it was Sean Penn’s description likening it to Yoghurt but without the living culture. Like science Fiction, I kind of like it when a film creates a totally unbelievable world. LA with culture? Fancy that.
So in this film, LA is slick and sophisticated in this one, and everything looks perfectly production designed. Even the old car Ryan Gosling’s DA is driving around in is a classy 60s BMW. Like, really? With California’s emission laws? There’s even Harmon Kardon Sound Sticks in Rosamund Pike’s glossy modern apartment. Well, I never! As for Anthony Hopkins’ character’s residence? Well, the production designer sure spent their budget well.
Some times movies are a lot better when the money is spent on the screen well and this might be Exhibit A for that argument.
If you like courtroom dramas this has something for you; if you like intrigue, this has it for you. For a film with a straight forward narrative, it allows itself time and space to have mysteries, and this makes it more watchable than the run of the mill courtroom movie.
What’s Bad About It
It gets pretty surreal as it loses itself in the plot points, trying to establish important bits for the trial when in fact it’s establishing it for the ending. As such you wonder if you’re supposed to be rooting for Anthony Hopkins to get away with murder, which is one kind of film or whether you’re rooting for Ryan Gosling to leave the public sector and go work for Anthony Hopkins and make a lot of money.
What’s Interesting About It
The trick. But for once I’ll do my best not to spoil it. It sure wasn’t the butler.
Consumerism As Identikit
I won’t go into it, but it does feature a very interesting comment about our consumerist world, namely that we go out and buy things to define ourselves but all the time the things on offer are mostly mass-manufactured. What this means is that our identity that we present ourselves to the world is like an idenitkit of ideology as well as taste, preference, sensibility and occupation. In a world of semiotics, we are leaking with ‘meaning’ but at the same time this meaning is emergent of consumerism. So just how individual can anybody get?
As captives, we overlook the degree to which even our said taste, preference, and sensibility are largely dictated to by the information provided to us through mass media outlets which are on the whole, purveyors of consumerism again. A decade on from ‘Fight Club’, this film goes a little way to show through its trick that we are in fact our sum total of choices, but that mostly those sum total of choices are choices made from frothy selections of consumerist confection. If we think we’re the sum total of moral choices, then we’re probably the victim of Hollywood propaganda.
The mass media machine offering up choices between Coke and Pepsi or between Ford and GM Holden as if there is something incredibly different between these things when in fact the essential differences between these things are trivial. What seems to peep through is the barren landscape where we are merely the sum total of things we choose to buy.
The Court Has A Narrow Door
The film starts off with the position that it is an open and shut case with a confession from the perpetrator. Then, the court case veers off-track wildly when the attempted murder cannot be linked to the gun or the casings. After that, the plot twists and turns around what else canot be permitted in court. You get the feeling that evidence that can be brought in to a courtroom is made out to be more difficult than it really is in real life.
It’s one of the fascinating things about American courtroom dramas is the regular tropes of inadmissible evidence. You sort of wonder if judges are readily throwing our evidence in real life on the grounds of admissibility. Think of all the cases that might have swung on inadmissible evidence. Think of all the people coin off death row thanks to DNA evidence that came many years later.
It sure makes the lay person wonder about the law’s attitude to evidence.
Euthanasia As Murder
I brought this up in the Movie Double for ‘Terminal Trust’ and The Three Stooges’ but there seems to be a developing trope that the problem with Euthanasia is that it could be used for murder.
I’m a little surprised to find it again in this film.
Given what happens in the film and the sort of polemic it pursues, the film gives rise to the question, what the title means. The more we look at it, the more abstract this title seems to become. What is it that is fracturing or is fractured? Is it society? Is it the relationship between the magnate and his wife? Is it the District Attorney’s office politics? Or is it the sense of civic duty that should be in the District Attorney that is fractured?
When I reflect upon it, there really isn’t something that gives away a concrete anchor point to this title. In that sense it seems like an incredibly opaque and abstract title to give a film.