Thursday, July 28, 2011

July 25 - The Woman (2011)

The Woman (2011)

Director: Lucky McKee
Format: Cinema

It's a rare occasion that I head out to the cinema these days. Before I head off into a grumpy old man grumble about talking teenagers, cellphones etc, let's just say one of the reasons I set up a home cinema in my basement was because I had my fill of "public" cinema experiences.

That being said, my wife and I do venture out of the basement once or twice a year to check out some of the offerings at the New Zealand Film Festival. Two years ago we saw the schlocktastic Troll 2 on the big screen, which remains easily my favourite cinema-going experience, right up there with going to see ET at the age of six.

This year we picked two movies, the first being Lucky McKee's infamous The Woman. I picked it because of McKee's name being attached to it and because the synopsis sounded interesting. The controversy over some douche walking out of a Sundance screening (and bellyaching about the film being misogynistic - check it out on youtube) wasn't a major factor in the decision, but definitly added to the intrigue.

The Woman tells the story of a feral, animalistic woman who is captured by the patriach of what appears to be an average American family living in suburbia on the verge of a forest. The father chains her up in the barn, as he and his family seek to "civilise" the woman.

But under their shiny facade is a less-than-healthy family dynamic. Mom is a meek victim of constant verbal, emotional and occasionally-physical abuse. Teen daughter is keeping a pregnancy secret - could dear old Dad be the father? Pre-teen son is a sadistic psychopath learning his dad's bad habits.

The Woman is based on a Jack Ketchum novel. I have to confess I've never read a Ketchum novel, or, until The Woman, seen a film adaption of one of his books. I have read an article or two about The Girl Next Door though, and understand that one's quite sadistic. My impression after watching The Woman is that Ketchum is one messed up guy.

Alright, so the hype about The Woman is that it's shocking. It probably is to some people, but if you've seen the likes of Takashi Miike's Audition or Lars von Trier's Anti Christ, you won't be shocked here. There is sadistic violence, sure, but nothing verging on "torture porn".

What makes The Woman work so well are the characterisations and the acting of them. Sean Bridgers, while eerily looking quite like Will Ferrell, is great as the twisted Dad. Angela Bettis (McKee's leading lady in the great MAY) gives a sedated performance as the much-maligned Mom. But stealing the spotlight is Zach Rand as their son Brian, easily the most messed-up of the characters. Rand gives off a creepy vibe with a magnificently-subtle performance. And just as Bridgers kept reminding me of Ferrell, Pollyanna McIntosh, who plays The Woman, looks quite like Milla Jovovich.

Is The Woman horror? Not really. There's not much in the way of suspense at all. It is definitely a comedy, albeit a dark and twisted black comedy. Any movie that can show a husband beating his wife mercilessly and then have you laughing out loud seconds later is hard to pigeonhole. But it works because the father's actions are so ludicrous, but at the same time quite believable.

The Woman won't be to everyone's liking, but if you've got a messed up sense of humor it might just hit your funny bone. It did mine.

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