Four Dramas from eOne Films
Alleged (April 20/12)
Though Inherit the Wind remains the definitive portrayal of the infamous Scopes monkey trial of 1925, Alleged attempts to put a fresh spin on the story by focusing on the exploits of an entirely fictional periphery character. The film, which boasts appearances by such real-life figures as William Jennings Bryant (Fred Dalton Thompson), Clarence Darrow (Brian Dennehy), and H.L. Mencken (Colm Meaney), follows ambitious journalist Charles
Anderson (Nathan West) as he endeavors to further his fledgling career by covering the aforementioned trial, with the movie subsequently (and primarily) detailing the fallout from Charles' inevitable decision to abandon his principles as the case unfolds - which naturally doesn't sit well with his angelic fiancée (Ashley Johnson's Rose). It's clear right from the get-go that filmmaker Tom Hines, working from a script by Fred Foote and Brian Godawa, has a very specific agenda that he's looking to perpetuate here, as the movie, for the most part, boasts a heavy-handed and laughably unsubtle feel that's reflected in its various attributes (ie one-note performances, simplistic plotting, etc, etc). There is, as such, little doubt that Alleged suffers from a lack of drama that's nothing short of disastrous, with the hopelessly uninvolving atmosphere quickly transforming the movie into a seriously interminable piece of work. (And it doesn't help, either, that Hines, in his efforts at compensating for the obvious low budget, has infused the proceedings with a relentlessly distracting hazy visual style.) The recurring emphasis on an absolutely pointless subplot involving Rose's black sister cements Alleged's place as a thoroughly misguided and surprisingly boring piece of work, and it's ultimately impossible not to wonder just what Hines originally set out to accomplish with this pedestrian mess.
Written and directed by Martin Donovan, Collaborator follows struggling playwright Robert Longfellow (Donovan) as he returns home to spend some time with his ailing mother (Katherine Helmond's Irene) and eventually reconnects with an old acquaintance (David Morse's Gus) from the neighborhood - with the narrative kicked into motion after Gus, having committed a violent crime, attempts to hold off the police by taking Robert hostage. Filmmaker Donovan, making his debut here, has infused Collaborator with a seriously deliberate feel that is, at the outset, nothing short of oppressive, with the arm's-length atmosphere, which is compounded by Donovan's questionable directorial choices (eg Manels Favre's nails-on-a-chalkboard score), perpetuated by an opening half hour that's simply too uneventful for its own good (ie one can't help but wish that Donovan would just get on with it already). Collaborator admittedly does improve, albeit briefly, once that aforementioned hostage situation rolls around, as the unexpected happening injects the proceedings with a burst of desperately-needed energy. It's not long, however, before the film resumes its glacial, inert feel, with Donovan's emphasis on the protagonists' meandering and decidedly less-than-substantial conversations ensuring that the movie, as a result, peters out to a rather palpable degree. And although the film boasts an admittedly stirring final 15 minutes, Collaborator has long-since established itself as a misfire of decidedly disappointing proportions - with the movie's various problems exacerbated by a complete and total absence of suspense or tension.
Comically pretentious and unreasonably slow, Sleeping Beauty follows university student Lucy (Emily Browning) as she takes on a job in which she's drugged and fondled by wealthy older men - with the film primarily detailing Lucy's plotless, episodic exploits in both her professional and personal lives. First-time filmmaker Julia Leigh opens the movie with an admittedly striking sequence that effectively captures the viewer's interest, as the inherently fascinating nature of the central character's hand-to-mouth existence is heightened by Leigh's promisingly cold, clinical directorial sensibilities. Leigh's decision to employ as aggressively deliberate a pace as one can easily recall slowly-but-surely drains one's enthusiasm for the proceedings, however, and it does, as a result, become more and more difficult to overlook Leigh's penchant for eye-rollingly oddball elements (eg Lucy's head-scratching relationship with a strange fellow named Birdmann). Far more problematic is the almost total lack of character development for the frustratingly blank protagonist, with Leigh's stubborn refusal to get inside Lucy's head compounding the movie's various problems and ensuring that one is never quite sure what makes the girl tick (ie why is she so promiscuous? why does she burn her cash? why does she react as she does in the film's penultimate shot? etc etc). It's subsequently (and ultimately) impossible to label Sleeping Beauty as anything more than a misguided bit of experimental filmmaking, which is a shame, certainly, given the strength of both the movie's striking visuals and Browning's go-for-broke performance.
Stuck Between Stations (May 1/12)
Stuck Between Stations follows former classmates Casper (Sam Rosen) and Becky (Zoe Lister-Jones) as they reunite at a bar and spend the rest of the night hanging out, with the film subsequently detailing the would-be couple's misadventures as they chat and wander the city. Filmmaker Brady Kiernan has infused Stuck Between Stations with an almost excessively subdued feel that's reflected keenly in Rosen and Nat Bennett's low-key screenplay, as the scripters, for the most part, place the emphasis entirely on the protagonists lackadaisical and frequently uneventful exploits - with the far-from-electrifying atmosphere generally perpetuated by as deliberate a pace as one could possibly envision. There's little doubt, then, that it's the affable performances that initially prevent the film's transformation into a full-fledged sleep aid, with Rosen and Lister-Jones turning in charismatic work that's often heightened by their palpable chemistry together. Stuck Between Stations' positive attributes are, however, slowly-but-surely drained of their impact by Kiernan's overly relaxed approach, and it's clear that the absence of substantive conversations - ie most of the dialogue is simply not compelling enough to sustain the plotless environment - plays an instrumental role in triggering the movie's eventual downfall. (This is despite the inclusion of a few admittedly stirring sequences, including a surprisingly riveting scene in which Becky recounts a horrific hitchhiking episode.) The end result is a well-intentioned yet terminally underwhelming indie that maintains a nigh passable feel virtually from start to finish, with the disappointment of this realization elevated by the stirring performances and overall vibe of authenticity.