Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Plot Has Been: Derailed

derailed,movie poster,clive owen,jennifer aniston

There's a reason that most of my posts have been about movies that are at least twenty years old. Mainly, I tend to prefer movies from the 80s, especially when it comes to horror/thriller films. It's also my tendency to put older movies in my Netflix queue, as they;re usually harder to find in traditional rental stores. Also, a lot of mainstream movies these days just aren't very entertaining.

There was only one kinda sorta "oh, cool!" moment during the movie, but it's part of the twist ending, and since this movie is only a few years old, I'm not terribly comfortable spoiling it outright. But it's a pretty cool scene, and it's a pretty good line. Unfortunately, it's the only really decent part of the movie.

Derailed was released in 2005, and directed by Mikael Håfström, and stars Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston. It was based (presumably loosely) on a novel of the same name written by Jason Siegel. This top-notch cast doesn't do much for the film in general, though. For a movie that's supposed to be a taut psychological thriller, everyone seems vaguely uninterested in what's going on. For example, the two main characters start off like they're going to have a steamy affair, but for the most part, they just look like this:

clive owen,jennifer aniston

Have you ever seen two people about to go to a hotel and have tawdry sex look more terminally bored and full of malaise and lethargy? For the love of God, man, tip her a wink, pat her behind, brush your fingers across hers, do something to indicate that you aren't just randomly walking past each other on the street! This serves as a basic metaphor for the movie.

There's a great load of potential, here. Mild-mannered Charles Schine happens to meet Lucinda Harris on the train into the city (Chicago). He was running late, missed his normal train and forgot to buy a ticket. She buys him one out of "generosity," and they flirt with each other for a few commutes. Eventually, their relationship escalates when a drunken idiot hits on her in a bar, and Charles knocks him out. Before they can consummate their cheap affair, they're mugged at gunpoint, Charles is knocked out, and Lucinda is brutally raped.

The next morning, he feels guilty, but she doesn't want to call the cops and expose their affair. Soon afterwards, the man calls Charles up, identifies himself as LaRoche, and blackmails him for $20,000. Charles pays, and thinks he is safe. The next month, LaRoche blackmails him yet again for $100,000, this time having entered Charles's house under the auspices of a business call, and charms Charles's wife and daughter. Charles borrows $10,000 from his job to pay the mailroom guy Wilson (played by The RZA) to "scare" LaRoche off. Wilson is then kileld by LaRoche, and Charles is plunged deeper into a world of crime, murder, extortion, confusion, betrayal, and deception.

It has a pretty good twist ending, with a couple of minor twists beforehand. Clive Owen is kind of reservedly bad-ass, not really out-and-out putting the smack down, but providing that low-key "maybe he'll cut my head off with his shoe" kind of performance he's known for. The guy that plays the bad guy (Vincent Cassell) is pretty decent too, somehow able to be charmingly French and a sleazy low-life all at the same time.

Luckily for me, one of the characters asks a question that I had been pondering the whole time: "I don't understand. Why would he rape her?" That's a good question, random unnamed guy that asks the question in the movie. It isn't a particularly graphic scene, it doesn't seem to enhance anything at first. Maybe it's because Jennifer Aniston has been trying to shed her "Rachel on Friends" role for such a long time. But it seems like plot-gratuitous, instead of sexually gratuitous. The basic point is for Charles to feel extra guilty, that he should have been able to protect her. It's especially terrible when he meets her later, wanting to go to the cops, and she tells him that she needed an abortion; the subject of going to the cops isn't broached again.

Charles also has a daughter that is a Type 1 diabetic, which means they have a home dialysis machine, and it puts additional strain on his marriage and finances. This is also to make us feel extra terrible that he has to pay all that money (especially since the $100,000 was directly from their savings for her medical bills). It seems like every little detail is designed to manipulate the audience, to make up for the weak plot and vaguely defined and occasionally nonsensical character behaviors.

I really wanted to like this movie more. I wish I could tell you guys more about the ending, because it's the best part. Oh well. It's barely worth a first look, and I probably won't watch it again. I give Derailed two awkwardly emotionless glances between would-be lovers out of five, or two wasted potentials out of five.

clive owen,jennifer aniston,derailed

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