Friday, August 28, 2009
Director: Roger Spottiswoode (Terror Train, And the Band Played On)
Starring: Alan Rickman (Harry Potter franchise, Perfume), Simon McBurney (The Duchess, The Golden compass), Gillian Barge (Charlotte Gray)
Realizing that the movie was written by the same person who wrote Gorky Park and Track 29, I had no qualms about storyline at all. Of course, now I realize that I enjoyed both of those movies in the '80s and haven't seen them since they came out, so I might need to rethink that due to this new evidence.
Overall, the acting wasn't horrible, but it was not in any way good. I'm not sure what Alan Rickman was going for here and can only think that the direction was what was missing. Consider how he researches parts, I can see where he was coming from. Anton Mesmer was a very dramatic man, and Alan played the part in that way. His acting fit perfectly with the real-life character of Anton Mesmer, but coupled with the horrific writing and directing it came off as melodramatic.
Liberties were taken with the story, of course, but not in any logical direction one would assume a writer of a Mesmer screenplay would go. Anton Mesmer was noted for his very seductive style and is assumed to have even inappropriately groped his female patients. Of course. This completely fits with Alan Rickman's style and he would have done it swimmingly. Only the movie chose not to take this route. It also chose not to show much of his fame, and more of his ridicule. It chose not to focus on the many inventions that Mesmer came up with to treat patients suffering from psychosomatic illness, sexual repression, and nervous hysteria.
What the movie did was lack focus and direction. It wasted Alan's talent which could have brought life to the character given his seductive manner and hypnotic voice. It paired him with a Swedish TV actress who was not appealing on screen and had one of the most awkward movie kisses I've ever seen.
Judging from this movie, someone might think that Mesmer was a fool, rather than a man ahead of his time. It's a real shame that it turned out this way. I am a huge Alan Rickman fan and have found nothing of his that I hated, even the rather dragging Bottle Shock. This movie likely won't be watched again.
Gillian Barge did a wonderful job as his bitter wife, and Simon McBurney as his slightly odd and creepy stepson. There are a few facts in the movie, but the real story is more inspiring and less pathetic than this movie made it seem.