A DANGEROUS METHOD - REVIEW
Ever since Spider, we've seen a very different David Cronenberg at work. A slightly more mature Cronenberg perhaps? Or just more grounded?
After all, this is the guy who turned Jeff Goldblum into a fly, put a gun inside James Woods' chest, cloned Jeremy Irons and exploded heads on a whim! A film about Freud and Jung hardly comes across as the man's most daring venture. That said, some of his later, non-sci-fi/horror projects have made their mark: from the quietly unsettling gloom of Spider to Viggo Mortensen's towering performance in Eastern Promises, Cronenberg has proven he can still make an impact.
I just miss those exploding heads...
This time, Mortensen is once again given a meaty role as none other than Sigmund Freud whom, despite being something of a secondary character, certainly stands out as the film's Joker. He is joined by a terrific Michael Fassbender (Jung) and a... (we'll get to that) Keira Knightley as Sabina Spielrein, Jung's troubled patient-turned-doctor. Essentially this is a Jung biopic focusing on the man's struggle to get his ideas in focus amidst Freud's influences and his relationship with Spielrein. Think of it as a kind of psycho-biddy flick minus the obligatory evil old lady.
From the offset it's pretty clear that Keira Knightley's portrayal of Spielrein will be the defining point of this film. By that I mean that your enjoyment of Cronenberg's latest will depend on where you stand in regards to Knightley's performance. I've got to give it to the actress: it's her most daring and out-there performance. Kudos on going further than ever. That said, it is probably one of the most distracting performance you'll see in a movie this year. It's an uncomfortable, awkward watch whenever she's onscreen and although one suspects that this was intentional I personally can't help but feel that such an OTT performance belongs in the Nicolas Cage vault right next to Face/Off and Ghost Rider. But it's not just the mugging and physical aspect of the performance that feels a bit jarring, it's the accent also. I'm not sure what she was going for but it fluctuates between American, Austrian, English and Cate Blanchett.
Like I said, I admire the actress' clear efforts but her frankly cartoony performance kept pulling me out of the movie constantly. Maybe I'm missing the point but that was just my personal experience. Otherwise, Fassbender and Mortensen both do an amazing job with a script which could have been a little bit fuller and more creative in its construction. The themes the film explores are all fascinating and it's an altogether fascinating story, it just needed a tad more subtlety and it needed to feel richer an experience.
As it stands, A Dangerous Method is more Spider than Eastern Promises: a weird, sinister outing with not enough weight to make it truly unforgettable but which boasts enough strong performances and neat touches to make it an average Cronenberg effort. Bearing in mind that an average Cronenberg effort is usually more rewarding than others'.
Not bad just... not very good I'm sorry to say.
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