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Category Archives: julianne moore

savage

After oh, two months of sitting in its sad little red envelope, I finally watched Savage Grace last night. Why didn’t anyone tell me that Julianne Moore is some kind of hysterical amalgam of Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce/Bette Davis in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?/Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?…except, you know, human. The tremendous thing about Moore’s performance here is how it often seems to wildly veer towards camp (the scene pictured almost rising to the glorious potty-mouthed breakdown heights of her pharmacy scene in Magnolia; there is no other person who makes the word “cunt” sound so transcendent) before being pulled back my some incredibly minute detail (following said scene is a static shot of Moore shakily but triumphantly walking out of frame, her face gradually fading from post-outburst pride to heartbroken terror).

If only the rest of the film was up to her standards instead of actually seeming to get in her way (or rather being frightened of being in her way). The string-laden score and gorgeous visuals reminded me of Contempt, and the laconic pace managed to convey the decadence of these aristocratic bohemians. Unfortunately for the film, the pace conjured by director Tom Kalin becomes a detriment to its success; the film throughout feels amorphous and undefined, should rightly be called “sloppy” if every shot wasn’t so meticulously framed, and when it needs to build towards the climax it instead feels as if the film has meandered enough and needs to finally end.

This is the first film in a while where I’ve been struck by the budgetary limitations of independent film. The film is certainly based on tremendously episodic source material, and screenwriter Howard A. Rodman wisely chooses appropriate vignettes in order to condense the story. Unfortunately when filmed, the condensation reveals severe narrative holes that, instead of imbuing the dramaturgy with purpose, empties it of its juice and flair. Throughout it seems that the filmmakers are constrained by their own limitations, and work to create a story as good as possible, which effectively seems to gut the meaningfulness of this story’s peculiar tragedy. Savage Grace, in the end, has an epic performance in search of an epic movie; instead it has Julianne Moore standing in a kiddie pool, bigger than every other one or thing in the film (except, oddly enough, child actor Barney Clark). I suppose that’s one comforting thing to take out of this movie: that after a few years of The Forgotten and Laws of Attraction and Next (wtf?!), Moore has proven that, for the first time since 2002, she still knows how to own a screen.