Execrable: Lift Me Up

Lift Me Up (2015)
Directed by Mark Cartier
Written by Franco Zavala, Aviv Rubinstien, Mark Cartier
Produced by Mark Cartier, Jonny Jay, Lisha Yakub, Jacob Patrick, Franco Zavala, Mike Montgomery, Lars Anderson
Starring Todd Cahoon, Sarah Frangenberg, Shane Harper, Maureen McCormick, Jonny Jay, Chris Browning, Kathryn McCormick, Gene Gabriel, Jacob Patrick, Madison Hargrove, Mallory Hargrove, Lexi DiStefano, Rafael de la Fuente, Antonio D. Charity, Gary Hargrove
Frangenberg isn’t a pinch as pretty, pleasing, plausible or lightsome as anyone who might clothe with appeal her role of a tetchy teen whose dolor for her late mother is expressed in flailing dance and shared by the stepfather (Cahoon) who she loudly and routinely vituperates, a fit yet estrogenically hypersensitive gunnery sergeant who attends a support group with other proto-menopausal widowers to vent his grief and craft pottery. Nearly everyone in this tame yet overheated drama is wooden, strepitently hammy or interchanging between either unwatchable extreme, obliged by dialogue as stiff and screamingly unfunny, from the mouths of characters defined either by insipidity or quirks as cutesy as Michael Matta’s mincing music. Zavala’s conflict is sloppily fabricated with unexplained absurdities: Cahoon’s obdurately obtuse Marine — who nearly deserves the bitchy invective he sustains daily — protests his stepdaughter’s daily transport courtesy of her unmistakably innocuous, quasi-nerdy inamorato manqué (Harper) without his spoken permission, but when she’s traumatized that he disposed of her mother’s entire wardrobe and other possessions in a previous, purportedly purgative scene without consulting her in advance, can’t fathom why he’d need hers (and nobody else cares); sororal twins (Hargroves) who’ve the demeanor of flamers coked to the gills and popularity warranting an entourage at our carping protagonist’s high school invite her to a party with presumed intent to humiliate her, then lose their minds when she smooches a cute classmate (Fuente) on whom they’d both designs; a sojourn at the home of her negligent and inconsiderate father (Browning) impels the aspiring dancer to her inevitable reconciliation with his successor, but a minute of this deadbeat’s sleazy presence raises the question of why she’s at all eager to reside with him. Their script exposes Rubinstien’s and Cartier’s categorical inability to pen compelling drama or amusing comedy, but much of the latter’s unintentionally manifest in Kathryn McCormick’s choreography, whereby the lunky leading lady and her classmates fling themselves about goofily. Some of that terpsichorean welter is prefaced by a metaphorically convoluted dithyramb delivered by McCormick during her cameo, but it’s never more hilarious than when Frangenberg pantomimes and thrashes wackily through a hokily interpretive routine onstage at a climactic competition. Would that this entire movie was as genuinely entertaining as its risibly tossing steppers, or that its hour of story wasn’t padded with nearly another fifty minutes of filler.

Instead, watch Uncle Buck.

Execrable: Phoenix

Phoenix (1995)
Directed by Troy Cook
Written by Troy Cook, Jimmy Lifton
Produced by Dan Bates, Troy Cook, Jimmy Lifton, Morgan Salkind
Starring Stephen Nichols, Billy Drago, Denice Duff, Brad Dourif, Peter Murnik, William Sanderson, Robert Gossett, Betsy Soo, Jeremy Roberts, Leland Orser
Most of these rather languorous, fifth-rate fantasies that aired during afternoons of the nineties and early aughts on the Sci-Fi Channel (to the middling approval of children and teenagers) seem less produced than cobbled for prompt airplay. In this one, the bloody insurgence of military androids posted to a lunar mining colony provokes their manufacturer’s oily CEO (Drago) to dispatch a strike force under the oversight of his testy lackey (Dourif) to neutralize the offending automatons and their undersized honcho (Sanderson). Treachery, corporate conspiracy, psychic side-effects of the mine’s exclusively extracted element and a few instances of shocking ineptitude create complications substituted for any sort of plot. Nichols is blandly macho as the team’s commander, lacking a dash of chemistry with his dubious love interest (Duff). His team’s cadre are stock stereotypes: doomed black lieutenant (Gossett); tough hussy (Soo); brainish clown (Roberts). Usually a reliable character actor, Sanderson is here either deliberately stiff or merely sedated. Dourif’s contrarily seething overperformance is amusing enough, as is a single sinister note played greasily by Drago. Expenses incurred by what passes for this flick’s production design certainly couldn’t exceed any budget in the low six figures; most of the costumes are inferior to middling togs of cosplay, and off-world mines, corporate complexes and hospitals of the future respectively resemble boiler rooms, warehouses and dentists’ offices of the ’90s sparsely adorned with neon lights. Congruous spacecraft consist of adorably toylike miniatures and graphics to rival those in cutscenes of coexistent shmups. Excepting a few unintentionally hilarious lines, most of Cook’s and Lifton’s dialogue is as shopworn as their story defined by derivation; even the malevolent corporation’s eponym Rydell is suspiciously similar to Tyrell. This is recommended only for indiscriminate potheads and Dourif’s fans, especially those who supported the twitchy thespian before Peter Jackson revived his career.

Instead, watch Scanners, Blade Runner or Ghost in the Shell.

Execrable: Girls’ Night Out

Girls’ Night Out (2017)
Directed by Philippe Gagnon
Written by Lisa Steele
Produced by Ian Whitehead, Kaleigh Kavanagh, Jean Bureau
Starring Mackenzie Mauzy, Kelly Kruger, Jacob Blair, Katherine Barrell, Hannah Emily Anderson, Cody Ray Thompson, Tristan D. Lalla

“Women complain about sex more often than men. Their gripes fall into two major categories: (1) Not enough, (2) Too much.”

–Ann Landers

Muted, the first twenty minutes of this crime drama excreted from the bowels of Lifetime could easily be mistaken for a carousal of alcoholic hookers; in actuality, it’s a bibulous bachelorette party thrown by her whilom sorority’s sisters (Kruger, Barrell, Anderson) for a copywriter (Mauzy) in a hotel room, limousine and strip club. Her loony ex-boyfriend (Blair) meanwhile abducts to torture her fiancee (Thompson), then threatens the wassailing quartet of ditzy careerists with blackmail by footage of their licentious collegiate indiscretions, coercing their fulfillment of several dicey, disgusting, destructive, absurdly agonizing and abashing tasks. None of these ladies are for their sleaze and self-righteous egoism significantly more sympathetic than their antagonist, now unhinged by a criminal trial in which he was acquitted years before that devastated his budding sporting career. Whoever can overlook this flick’s trashily garish photography (of an oversaturated sort common to televised fare or ugly features lensed by the likes of Ben Seresin), downright distasteful characters whose noisome personalities were defined by their inane collegial culture, and a few yawning plot holes may also be sufficiently suasible or dupable to believe that a rape can be inflicted by a man upon his doxy of over a year while both are drunk. Its cockamamie contrivances are sporadically fun, but this pernicious, preposterous propaganda is plainly aimed to inspire in stupidly susceptible young women the inkling that sex in any conceivable circumstance may be assault, and victimhood’s a mere question of post-coital dissatisfaction. Trash of this fashion would be decried detestable in a normal society; in those where mendacious accusations of rape are spotlit monthly by corrupt news media outlets until they’re debunked, it’s all the more repugnant for its mundanity.

Behold — the most unconvincing headshot yet shot:

Execrable: Dead Awake

Dead Awake (2016)
Directed by Phillip Guzman
Written by Jeffrey Reddick
Produced by Phillip Guzman, Philip Marlatt, Galen Walker, Kurt Wehner, James LaMarr, Derek Lee Nixon, A.J. Gutierrez, Jeffrey Reddick, LeeLee Wellberg
Starring Jocelin Donahue, Jesse Bradford, Jesse Borrego, Lori Petty, Brea Grant, James Eckhouse, Mona Lee Fultz, A.J. Gutierrez, Natalie Jones, Billy Blair
It’s as apt as inevitable a subject to be exploited for the conception of a horror flick, but sleep paralysis isn’t ever in reality so soporiferous as this flat pap concerning a social worker (Donahue) who investigates the inexplicable death of her identical twin (Donahue) with her sibling’s boyfriend (Bradford) and an invariably incapable somnologist (Borrego) who’s colligated historical, apocryphal and personal evidence of a dread beldame (Jones) who strangles her somnially immobilized victims. Actualized by Guzman’s perfunctorily practiced direction, Reddick’s story typically, torpidly totters from one prosaic, progressively preposterous scene to the next, each replete with a tranche of spoken and conceptual clichés. Securely typecast Donahue prettily navigates her leaden, often footling dialogue with facility as spare as her figure to surpass most of her co-stars. Borrego and Blair seem to vie for the goofier performance, and Bradford’s greasily bewildering crinal extensions and beard impart to him a semblance of Colin Farrell cosplaying as Dick Masterson, dubbed by A.J. Bowen at his most nebbish. Much of Dominique Martinez’s photography is weirdly desaturated when that banal blue filter isn’t applied, and both modes are as ugly as Donahue’s god-awful wardrobe. Presumably intended for audiences possessing an infinitesimal threshold for horror who enjoyed Reddick’s Final Destination, it’s not likely to unsettle any save the smallest children and animals. Howbeit, this picture may be someday pressed as the nonmedical, hypnagogic remedy that finally cured insomnia.

Instead, watch A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Execrable: Caught in the Web

Caught in the Web (2012)
Directed by Kaige Chen
Written by Kaige Chen, Danian Tang
Produced by Chen Hong, Huayi Cao, Ziwen Wang, Song Wei
Starring Yuanyuan Gao, Chen Yao, Mark Chao, Xueqi Wang, Hong Chen, Luodan Wang, Ran Chen, Yi Zhang, David Peck, Qing Huo, Ningyu Zhao
Obloquy’s inescapable in a corrupt and insular society, as an aggrieved secretary (Gao) in Hangzhou learns after video of her cool discommodity toward an old man on an omnibus goes viral. Neither are her employer (Wang), the opportunistic journalist (Yao) who publicizes the video, her intern (Wang) who shot it, nor their respective friends, families or colleagues immune from the repercussions of this infamy. That terrific scenario and the cogent social commentary it examples are ruined by the involutions of numerous, often incredible underplots to pad yet another of Chen’s disappointing features with approximately forty minutes. He’s still skilled as an actor’s director; his players’ performances are uniformly fine, despite his ludicrous story and maddeningly excessive editing whereby shots are cut from one vocalized clause to the next, appealing with apparent success to young audiences of a mean attention span that’s woefully meager. This isn’t the Chen who crafted brilliant, beautiful period pictures in the vanguard of the Fifth Generation during the ’80s and ’90s, but he who’s since shot rancid melodramas such as Killing Me Softly and The Promise, and filed with stupidly barratrous intent a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement against a frivolously comedic short lampooning the latter. Devoted fans may be pleased to observe his wife and co-producer Hong as the disgruntled spouse of longtime collaborator Xueqi Wang, both of whom enact a needlessly nugatory excursus with a dignified maturity exceeding the film’s. Yao supplies this flick’s most apropos representation as its sleazily unscrupulous program director, a role for which the perennially celebrated and unpleasant leading lady’s uniquely suited. Chen’s early work is echoed by a conclusion of elegiac elegance, which is sadly incongruous with the hour and fifty minutes precedent.

Execrable: Battle Royale II: Requiem

Battle Royale II: Requiem (2003)
Directed by Kenta & Kinji Fukasaku
Written by Kenta Fukasaku, Norio Kida
Produced by Kenta Fukasaku, Kimio Kataoka, Shigeyuki Endo, Hikaru Kawase, Masumi Okada
Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Ai Maeda, Shugo Oshinari, Ayana Sakai, Haruka Suenaga, Yuma Ishigaki, Riki Takeuchi, Miyuki Kanbe, Masaya Kikawada, Yoko Maki, Maki Hamada, Yuki Ito, Michiho Matsumoto, Natsuki Kato, Aja, Seiichi Ebina, Ayumi Hanada, Mika Kikuchi, Takeru Shibaki, Gou Ryugawa, Chisato Miyao, Kenji Harada, Yuuko Morimoto, Ryoji Fujihira, Shoko Sato, Yasutake Yuboku, Aiko Moriuchi, Kayo Nayuki, Kouta Yamada, Musashi Kubota, Minami Kanazawa, Kazuki Yamamoto, Makoto Sakamoto, Asuka Ishii, Takeshi Kitano

“The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerilla wins if he does not lose.”

–Henry Kissinger, The Vietnam Negotiations

Is any entertainment of every medium so apt to failure or destined for disappointment as the common sequel? Whether so or not, Fukasaku’s satirically slaughterous classic deserved far better than his son’s cornball chaos of diminished impact, political pretensions and execrable enactment. Two skyscrapers felled by terrorists prompt the Japanese government to temporize, so a class of twoscore and twain is conscripted from a school for delinquents to storm the offending cell’s insular compound and assassinate its jefe (Fujiwara), one of the preceding pic’s surviving twosome. Alas, Kinji Fukasaku expired after shooting a few scenes, and as Kenta lacks the clairvoyance, scrupulous eye and decades of experience evidenced in his father’s best productions, this blatant mistake presents its audience with violence as prosaic and drama as overheated as that of any vehicle starring Steven Segal or Jean-Claude van Damme unintended for theatrical release. Every fifteen to twenty minutes, corny confrontations, maudlin monologues or needlessly expositive flashbacks punctuate the mingy plot to worsen a plodding pace, and combat wherein hammy hysterics abound is nearly as dreary as intervals during which the principals merely mope about. Unlike this forgettable fodder, more than half of the first flick’s fatal, photogenic freshmen were memorably individual for their esprit, and this contradistinction’s as attributable to poor performances as deficient characterization. Sullenly stoic Maeda plays the daughter of Takeshi Kitano’s dead pedagogue without a trace of her junior sister’s charm, Fujiwara’s too cute to be believed as a hardened terrorist, and while the overt delivery twitched and snarled by clamant rebel Oshinari and glowering teacher Takeuchi are amusing while the students are geared, it’s at best tiresome thenceforth. Kitano, Aki Maeda and Sonny Chiba are wasted in cameos, as is one clever idea: with the inducted yet raucous students numbered in yoked pairs, the lethality of their explosive collars is extended; detonations are avoided by obedience and constant progress, but now also the compliance, proximity and survival of either partner. Naturally, this escalated threat is literally defused rather than exploited early in the second act, after which mushy melodrama and trite, insurrectionary postures dominate an hour’s longueur. Politically, this denunciation of American imperium is tenable, and identification of its protagonists with Al-Qaida daringly provocative for a major motion picture produced in the early aughts, but Fujiwara’s preachments betray this particular anti-imperialist creed as no more sensible or sophisticated than a T-shirt printed with Che Guevara’s portrait, worn by a pampered Ivy Leaguer endowed with a fulsome trust fund. Likewise, anti-American sentiment isn’t terribly convincing in an overwrought, overscored movie replete with doleful schmalz, cheap CG and hideous chromatic filters; Fukasaku’s flop rails against the United States’ foreign policy, yet mimics so many of Hollywood’s worst trends. The bracing pace, striking suspense, black hilarity, sociosexual insights, devastating tragedies and slick style of its predecessor is all but forgotten in this unmitigated clunker, perhaps the longest 134 minutes in cinematic history. Even if he’d stepped into his father’s shoes without stumbling, Fukasaku couldn’t overcome the verity that sinks his foray: adolescent war against adults is as stupid a concept as a planet where apes evolve from men.
Instead, watch Wedlock/Deadlock, Cyber City Oedo 808 or Battle Royale.

Execrable: LOL (Laughing Out Loud)

LOL (Laughing Out Loud) (2008)
Directed by Lisa Azuelos
Written by Lisa Azuelos, Nans Delgado
Produced by Romain Le Grand, Eric Hubert
Starring Christa Théret, Sophie Marceau, Jérémy Kapone, Lou Lesage, Marion Chabassol, Émile Bertherat, Félix Moati, Louis Sommer, Adèle Choubard, Jade-Rose Parker, Warren Guetta, Jocelyn Quivrin, Alexandre Astier, Axel Kiener, Françoise Fabian, François-Xavier Bouvier, Patty Hannock

“Teenagers are people who express a burning desire to be different by dressing exactly alike.”


A title clumsily calculated by a thick GenXer to appeal to mindless millennials, yet explanatorily parenthesized for every brainless boomer’s benefit — doesn’t that portend peachily? Less cynical than simple in her undertaking to create a lucrative Boum for the online generation, Azuelos’ want of vision is reflected by her unimaginative, unlikable, unfunny characters: an ornery student (Théret), her parents (Marceau, Astier), friends (Lesage, Chabassol, Choubard), sweetheart (Kapone), pedagogues (Kiener, Bouvier, Hannock), et al., who blunder through a sequence of interpersonal cliches dotted with hoary pranks, cutesy montages, gaumless raillery, witless wordplay, schlocky pop music and senselessly styled hair. Performances by an estrogenic rock band comprised of Kapone, Moati and Guetta, and a class trip to a Britain populated by superannuated stereotypes fresh from the mid-’70s are particularly exquisite, especially when precious dreck committed by the likes of Bright Eyes or unendurable Jean-Philippe Verdin assails the audience’s ears. Pinoteau’s successes in the ’80s are primarily accreditable to his intimate apprehension of youthful GenX’s personal, cultural, scholastic and sexual mores. Casting Marceau as a wink to her contemporaries, Azuelos only proves herself a rank representative of her insistently underwhelming generation in its stagnant middle age, possessing only a shallow grasp of millennials that merely, correctly characterizes their charmless conformity within a carcass composed of contretemps lifted from better flicks, sporadically tolerable only during its dullest moments.
Instead, watch La Boum, La Boum 2, The Breakfast Club or Battle Royale.

Execrable: Revelation

Revelation (1999)
Directed by André van Heerden
Written by Paul and Peter Lalonde
Produced by Paul and Peter Lalonde, Colin Brunton
Starring Jeff Fahey, Tony Nappo, Leigh Lewis, David Roddis, Carol Alt, Nick Mancuso, Marium Carvell

“And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.”

Revelation 14:9-14:11

Grossly eisegetic of the New Testament’s climactic book even by Van Heerden’s laughable standards, this second flick of his eschatological quadrilogy gawkily interprets scripture via a Boomer’s conception of popular technology in the ’90s during impending end times, when a global government headed by a professed messiah (Mancuso) has acceded to imperium, Christians are for their piousness persecuted, and nobody wears neckties. Months after his wife and daughter are suddenly assumed during playtime along with devout millions more during the Evangelicals’ loudly prophesized Rapture, a counter-terrorism agent (Fahey) confronts Mephistophelian connivance via virtual reality after arresting a congregation accused of terrorism, and grapples with his own emergent faith while allied with an anchorwoman turned antinomian evangelist (Lewis) and a pinguid, pestilent, paraplegic programmer (Nappo). Their daffy dialogue contributes as much to the hamminess of the Lalonde brothers’ cast as Van Heerden’s direction; villainously typecast Mancuso overplays his antichrist with rare relish, as does Roddis as his snarling executive henchman, but Nappo’s personification of an oleaginous stereotype is deeply, rather offensively obnoxious. No stranger to inane B-cinema, Fahey fares fairly during his first forty minutes, but can’t overcome the immanent melodrama of his hardened nullifidian’s redemption. As exegesis, propaganda pushing providence or an actioner, this is a bust: its cheesy score, sloppy script and flat, excessively tinted photography defy serious critique, but it’s frolic and certain to please fans of Fahey and Mancuso, who know not to judge most of their work in sobriety. Overfed televangelist John Hagee and Jack and Rexella van Impe, his tireless colleagues of cablecast ubiquity, preach directly to the audience in videotaped cameos secured by their budgetary stakes. Like most Biblical literalists, the Lalondes’ divination betrays a persecution complex to match those of black dissidents, white nationalists and every stalwart of social justice, but theirs is especially maddening for an occasional glimmer of insight. If they and theirs recognized the terrene evil residing in globalism for the bureaucratic tyranny it requires to subsist, disastrous economics it proposes to impose upon the world, its inhuman perspective of dissimilar nations as fungible chattels, and relentless promotion of corporate abuses rather than that purely prophetical condition whereby an extramundane Archenemy begets Armageddon, their schlock might actually enlighten burghers who ought to understand a force that seeks to comfortably vitiate and oppress humanity, rather than misinterpret what’s far more artfully augured in the Good Book.
Instead, watch Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

Execrable: Sister, Sister

Sister, Sister (1987)
Directed by Bill Condon
Written by Bill Condon, Ginny Cerrella, Joel Cohen
Produced by Walter Coblenz, Pegi Brotman, Yvonne Ramond, Ira Trattner, J. David Marks, Gabe Sumner
Starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judith Ivey, Eric Stoltz, Benjamin Mouton, Dennis Lipscomb, Anne Pitoniak, Natalia Nogulich, Richard Minchenberg
Its international box office tally of $1.2B elevated Disney’s semi-live action retread of Beauty and the Beast to unqualified success, and secured a permanence of position for perennial schmaltzmonger Bill Condon, who’s never failed to concoct or adapt nauseous hokum. His debut antedates that latest success by thirty years, but isn’t a touch less treacly, for this Southern Gothic murder mystery’s attractive production design and three fine principals were wantoned away on its creator’s institutional maudlinism. Lodging in Louisiana at the familial manse devised to its proprietress (Ivey), a congressional aide (Stoltz) finds himself mutually smitten with her touched sister (Leigh) and drawn into their sordid secrets by a goony handyman and valet (Mouton) in their employ. Condon sets his shots competently, but flagrantly mishandles players who’re all congruously cast: Stoltz’s stiff, often effeminate delivery undercuts what should be simmering vehemence; from one scene to the next, Leigh interchanges between charming vulnerability and the quavering blunders of first takes; native Louisianan and hammily proto-McConaughesque Mouton is abominable as the meddling bayou bricoleur, mumbling an unaccountably godawful deep southern accent and butchering French while overplaying his every sweaty shot. Ivey weathers well her director’s ineptitude to create the pic’s sole consistent performance, bracing no few scenes with the passion of her elder sister’s solicitude. Forty minutes of solid plot are tediously temporized nigh to ninety not with compelling interaction but corny cutbacks, adolescent outbursts, and a categorically unconvincing red herring leading to a preposterously phantasmic climax. However, it’s easy on the eyes: DP Stephen Katz lensed southern swamps and two plush plantations with a misty splendor almost as beauteous as its younger leads in erotic congress, Leigh especially breathtaking in the flower of her neoteny, notwithstanding a neglect of her exceptional endowment. Neither does it pain the ear, though Richard Einhorn’s lovely score is overextended to blunt the effect of numerous shocks and throttle what might’ve been atmospheric moments. As always, Condon’s confounded as much by his slavish conventionalism as his drab dialogue and simplistic characterization. Natheless, he deserves some credit for depicting less the backwoods baseness than the modest politesse of the reconstructed south, and although a yenta (Pitoniak), her equally hymish daughter (Nogulich) and nebbish son-in-law (Minchenberg) quartered at the mansion are at least as stereotypical as anyone else here, they’re no more harshly than crudely charactered. If he treated of story so sensitively as he does people, Condon might craft a picture that isn’t merely an emptily commercial success.

Execrable: The Fine Art of Love

The Fine Art of Love (2005)
Directed by John Irvin
Written by Frank Wedekind, Alberto Lattuada, Ottavio Jemma, James Carrington, Sadie Jones
Produced by Ida Di Benedetto, Jan Balzer, André Djaoui, Patrick Irwin, Mario Cotone
Starring Jacqueline Bisset, Mary Nighy, Hannah Taylor Gordon, Silvia De Santis, Anna Maguire, Eva Grimaldi, Enrico Lo Verso, Urbano Barberini, Natalia Tena
From childhood, orphans sequestered at a gated Thuringian boarding school during the early 20th century are immersed in a taxing balletic regimen inflicted as much as conducted by its cruelly unsparing headmistress (Bisset) and terpsichorean instructor (Grimaldi) for the ultimate benefit of a princely patron (Barberini). Can a nascent, sapphic love between two of the school’s star pupils (Nighy, Gordon) weather its crushing intramural tyranny to outlast the forbearance of anyone viewing this supremely mawkish melodrama? Not at all: Irvin navigates his overscripted, overscored, overheated Anglo-Italo-Czech production into a euripus of trite theatrics, menstrual hysterics and the most porcine concerted histrionics in recent memory. Only Bisset sustains any dignity by interpreting her wicked warder as something resembling a plausible person, but even her rarefied instincts can’t mitigate that character’s most risible tirrets. Otherwise, all of her co-stars are steadily, horrendously hammy, their overperformances exacerbated by bum dubbing fit for one of U.S. Manga Corps’ OAVs in the worst Italian tradition, and dialogue that’s stupidly stilted and supererogantly expositive by Wiseauan standards. Perhaps half of the players are miscast: swarthy Sicilian Lo Verso could scarcely look less German, and lumbering, potato-faced Nighy plays a putative beauty opposite stunningly adorable Gordon as her supposedly homely lass. From every dopey declamation to grating gust to adolescent observation to needless murder to the smallest dramatic gesture, Irvin wrests maximal bathos, which culminates in a cockamamie climax importing suicides, arson and rape contextualized to chastise that nefarious patriarchy. A few symbolic shots are as glaringly graceless as any other of this clinker’s excesses, further certifying Irvin’s artless misdirection behind the luxuriant veneer of Dante Ferretti’s typically posh production design and Fabio Zamarion’s fine photography. Not a subtle moment survives a suffocating score by Paul Grabowsky, creeping about every plaster corner and architrave to disambiguate potentially equivocal shots and instruct its audience with dissonant swells in minor keys. It’s wretched from its first ostentation to conclusive shriek.
Instead, watch Innocence, Hadzihalilovic’s superior, empyreally meditative adaptation of Wedekind’s novel.