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October 07, 2002 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2002-10-07

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October 7, 2002



'Red Dragons"n
lacks vicious
By: Todd Weiser
Daily Film Editor ii

'Secretary' explores
darker depths of love

By John Laughlin
Daily Arts Writer

After the horrible, joke of a sequel "Hannibal"
and the choice of director Brett Ratner, responsi-
ble for the less than artistic "Rush Hour" movies,
expectations are bound to be low for prequel "Red
Dragon." On the other hand, "Red Dragon" also
follows the masterpiece, end-all-be-all of serial
killer suspense films that has held influence over
a decade of rip-offs, "The Silence of the Lambs."
The new film based on the Thomas Harris novel
that began the Hannibal Trilogy has also been
filmed once before as Michael Mann's "Man-
hunter," an expressionistic take on the story that
uses subtle touches to disturbingly tell FBI agent
Will Graham's search for the "Tooth Fairy."
In its efforts to entertain, Ratner's "Red Drag-
on" feels the need to overexplain every step the
investigators, and the plot, takes. Hannibal
Lecter's role as the main attraction forces Ratner
and screenwriter Ted Tally to increase his screen-
time, often losing focus of the mental ills of main
character Will Graham and the overall impact of
the story at hand.
The unnecessary, over-the-top activities of Lecter
introduce the film in a flashback as he hosts a din-
ner party for unsuspecting eaters and then inflicts
wounds, both physical and mental, on Graham
(Edward Norton) as he discovers that psychiatrist
Lecter is the one responsible for a local series of
murders. Anthony Hopkins reprises his legendary
role despite the obvious age discrepancy between
his looks and the in-the-past setting.
Several years later, Graham has left the FBI and
taken up a peaceful residence in small Florida
town with his son and wife (Mary-Louise Parker).
Of course, this vacation doesn't last long as FBI
superior Jack Crawford (Harvey Keitel) dangles
family pictures in front of him of a new killer's
latest victims. Despite some early reservations
and his wife's concern, Graham heads down to the
one-time family homes, now crime scenes, and
recreates the nighttime movements of the killer to
feel his motives and reap some clues. .
Illustrating the differences between the original
"Manhunter" and "Red Dragon," Graham now
decides to visit his old friend Lecter in a Balti-
more psychiatric facility. In "Manhunter," Graham
"visited a clean, washed out facility to simply

Imagine a film opening with a shot
of a beautiful woman trying to perform
office tasks while wearing a device
that looks like something out of the
Salem Witch Trials. Who is this
woman? Why is she doing this, or is
someone making her do this? In one of
the most original films to hit the screen
for quite some time, "Secretary" deliv-
ers a tale both strong in sexuality and
plot. Directed by Steven Shainberg, the
film tells the story of Lee Holloway
(Maggie Gyllenhaal, "Donnie Darko")
and her decent into the world of sado-
masochism. While this subject seems
to be rarely touched on the screen, this
film provides an in-depth look at how
one can go from being unaware of
such practices to being taken totally

and has her perform increasingly
worse tasks. Grey also notices the
band-aids on Lee's legs. Now knowing
the type of girl she is, he begins to
dominate her both mentally and physi-
cally. Spankings for typing errors,
delivering letters on her knees and
strange devices ensue in a disturbing
yet comical light.
It is when Grey starts to reject Lee
that the film takes a more serious turn
and chooses to focus more on the
relationship between them. Lee even-
tually feels so rejected she accepts a
proposal from an old friend - Peter
(Jeremy Davies, "Saving Private
Ryan") - but she still feels a connec-
tion to Grey. The film reaches an Alt-
man-esque climax that determines the.
future of their relationship.
For some, "Secretary" will be a dis-
turbing film, for others it will be a
dark romantic comedy. The film

I am Jack's serial killer mind.

regain the old feel of a killer, and a reminder of
what it takes to track him down. This time around,
Graham feels lost in the investigation and leans on
Lecter in his filthy, basement cell locale. Norton's
Graham never really feels like the smartest kid on
the block that he is supposed to be, often stating
the obvious and receiving help from others.
In what some may deem homage, but seems
more like unoriginality, "Red Dragon" references
the other films in the series, visually and story-

Park") whose love interest Reba, a blind coworker
who elicits the good in him. Fiennes is forced to
run around half-naked covered in dragon tattoos
and make cross-country trips on some imaginary
income, but he still keeps Dolarhyde as grounded
in reality as his character can possibly be. Watson
is probably the best actress working today that
most people don't know about, if you have doubts
watch her in "Breaking the Waves" and try to
object. Given a one-note role to play, the sweet,

under their spell.
The film moves from
the opening scene to a
flashback of six months
earlier. We now get to
figure out how this
woman got herself into
such a precarious situa-
tion of restriction. As it
turns out, Lee has just
been released from a
mental facility. She is a
sweet and innocent person,1

At The Michigan
Lion's Gate

explores sado-
masochism, but also
brings forth the question
of love, longing and
ownership over one's
partner. Lee is never
forced to do anything.
She is submissive and
cannot be seen as a vic-
tim. This is evident in
her masturbatory scenes

wise, as well as borrowing from
Hitchcock in the usage of music
and when needing help to explain
the insanity of the "Tooth Fairy,"
not so cleverly replacing the mother
of a "psycho" with the grandmother
of this psycho as the vocal cause of
his dementia.
The cast Ratner has assembled is
unequivocally one of the best put on
screen in years, but sadly the talents

At Showcase,
Quality 16 and

good blind girl who can't see the
deformity of the mouth Dolarhyde
obsesses over, Watson reveals a histo-
ry of her own through simple move-
ments and subtle speaking patterns.
With a story infinitely more inter-
esting and suspenseful than last
year's "Hannibal," Ratner at least
brings the value of the Hannibal
series back up from the depths Ridley
Scott threw it into. Furthermore,
Hopkins as Lecter does not make fun

are wasted of many. Phillip Sey-
mour Hoffman appears as a tabloid reporter
caught up in the case a little more than he wishes
to be. His screen-time is short and the usually
incredible does little with it. The talents of Parker,
never more than a loving housewife, and Keitel,
more responsible for dispensing plot details than
any wisdom, also go untapped.
Somehow rising above the level of the writing
for their characters are Ralph Fiennes ("The Eng-
lish Patient") as Francis Dolarhyde a.k.a. the
"Tooth Fairy" and Emily Watson ("Gosford

but with a

of himself nearly as much as Scott let him, but he
still occasionally wallows in a characteriture of
the once masterful performance he shocked view-
ers with. Go back and watch Jonathon Demme's
"Silence of the Lambs," see that Hopkins never
felt like a joke originally.
Sometimes entertaining, but too often super-
ficial and choppy, "Red Dragon" fails to live up
to an impossible legacy, yet more importantly
disappoints in creating an engaging two hours
of its own.I

pension for hurting herself when too
upset. Upon her release, she takes a
typing course and goes on a job search.
One night during a moment of heat-
ed emotion, Lee finds herself staring
down the barrel of a trashcan and dis-
covers a help wanted ad for a secretary.
Loving this idea she takes it upon her-
self to go and apply for the job.
The outside of the office building
dons a motel-like "Secretary Wanted"
sign that gives one the comical impres-
sion that secretaries come and go from
this place. The office belongs to E.
Edward Grey (James Spader, "Crash"),
a lawyer and one who seems at first to
be "a little off somehow."
Lee gets the job and begins a life of
seeming servitude to Grey. He begins
to study her,-or more likely size her-up

as well as when she professes her love
for Grey. While one may not be able
to totally relate to Lee, one can grasp
onto her emotions of rejection, isola-
tion and longing.
Both Spader and Gyllenhaal are
first-rate. Each is able to convey a per-
formance with the necessary compli-
cated mix of inner pain and turmoil
with love and compassion for another.
Shainberg has adapted a story that
brings forth many social taboos, but
imbedded within are issues revolving
around the human condition. Can one
give his or herself and totally belong to
someone else? What other ways can
physical love be expressed without
intercourse? Through a fantastic mix
of comedy and drama "Secretary"
delivers itself through a redefinition of
the romantic comedy.

'Moonlight' lets Hoffman, Sarandoii shine

By Ryan Lewis
Daily Arts Writer
Movies based on true stories have a
tendency for poignancy and energy that
other films often lack. Maybe because
they feel more genuine, possibly
because they touch a part of the audi-
ence that other films overlook, or
maybe the reality of the characters
clutches our conscience and emotes
empathy through vivid portrayals.
Whatever the case may be, these films
grab hold of our heartstrings and sere-
nade us with a powerful package of
"Moonlight Mile" is one such film.
Loosely based on the real life experi-
ence of director Brad Silberling, it is a
potent story that leaves everyone with a
h changed view of what it means to

move-on. Great performances, wonder-
fully flawed and dynamic characters,
beautiful cinematography and a mel-
lifluent soundtrack make this a movie
that everyone should see and one of the
best yet this year. Silberling puts his
story on screen in a vivacious, striking
and extremely moving style for which
he should definitely be distinguished.
Set in the 1970s', the film introduces
us to the uncomfortable situation of Joe
Nast (Jake Gyllenhaal, "Donnie
Darko"), who recently moved into his
fiance's parents' home in a small town
in New England. In a breathtaking,
while simultaneously very real and
amusing, opening sequence, Joe is
bombarded by people trying to comfort
him after his fiance was murdered at a
diner. He is not so much devastated as
he is overwhelmed by the empty pity of
people he has never met. Together with
Ben and JoJo, incomparably played by
Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon,
he stays in town to help them cope with
losing their daughter for more reasons
than his own.
Not knowing what he wants for him-
self, Joe joins Ben as a partner at his
real estate company. Immersing himself
in his work, Ben sees no other way to
keep moving than to simply do what he
has always done and live how he always
has. JoJo has a significantly rougher
time dealing, as she has lost everything
she thought she lived for. She takes sol-
ace in Joe, who is numbed by the death
and because of a secret he cannot bear
to tell them. Each character has quirks
that make them humorous and heart-

breaking from one moment to the next.
They try to keep going, but it becomes
increasingly difficult as the murderer's
trial begins and Joe starts to develop a
love for a local beauty named Bertie
(Ellen Pompeo).
Emotions fly and complicated situa-
tions arise making the film gripping
from start to finish. The story is so true
that it almost feels like a
natural roller coaster of
emotions happening at a
post-funeral brunch. One
minute will have a pinch MOOT
of awkward hilarity, and M
the very next moment
will bring you close to At Sh
tears. Relationships are
what make the story most Touc
compelling, where frus-
tration and anxiety bring love one sec-
ond and anger the next.
The acting alone makes this movie
memorable and profoundly worthwhile.
Gyllenhaal gives a worthy performance
as Joe. Though he is sometimes hapless
and stagnant, his mannerisms and deliv-
ery transform his character from inter-
nally dead to psychologically complex
and enthralling. Dustin Hoffman and
Susan Sarandon are as good as they
have ever been. Hoffman brilliantly
takes us through Ben's struggle to retain
control of his life by keeping still, and
plays out his flaws and rejuvenation
better than any other actor can. As JoJo,

Sarandon looks and acts more beauti-
fully than ever. Her strength and natural
talent shine in a performance that is
unquestionably Oscar material. New-
comer Ellen Pompeo is nothing short of
stunning. She has striking beauty and
provides a freshness that will have her
on the top list of blockbuster actresses
in a very short while. Even Dabney


Coleman ("Cloak & Dag-
ger") has a very entertain-
ing supporting role.
The cinematography in
"Moonlight Mile" is
some of the best put on
film. This is a movie that
progresses more through
its images than through
the characters themselves.
Some of the shots in the

Courtesy of Lion's Gate
Maggie remembers Frank the Bunny.

film are framed and projected in a way
that is simply astounding. Complement-
ing the look of the movie is a sound-
track full of songs from prolific bands
like the Rolling Stones and singers like
Van Morrison.
This is a film plush with wonderful
talent, unique style and a story that
rings true in every regard. Contrary to
the depressing nature of the plot, it
manages to leave off with a feeling of
renewed comfort with an uplifting mes-
sage that it is possible to let go and
move forward. "Moonlight Mile" is
touching, heartfelt and simply a great
movie that should not be missed.

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