I hope you have all had a wonderful summer! The school year is back, and we all have to get back to our studies; oh joyous day. Well, sadly, I’m back now as well, and I’m here to take out hours of my time a day and minutes of yours. Now that I’ve returned, my updates will be back to being as frequent as they were before, so don’t worry. If you have missed me, I question why but am thankful, as I have missed you as well (especially you, no, not you but the one behind you).
Let’s start off with a bang, shall we? I’ve finally made it to the Toronto International Film Festival and have managed to check out a few films there, so I will get to those next week. In the mean time, I’ve put up some quick reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, where I am somehow a super reviewer (basically I get additional powers like allergies and sinus issues every morning), and one of them has caught some attention: My review of Passion. I will post a better, more developed review on here next week but my rating and views on it shall remain the same. I’ve gotten some messages about it, and to be honest I don’t blame people for questioning my review.
Case in point: Most people have hated the film, and yet here I am thinking it was pretty damn good. I’m not the only person who actually liked the movie, but I’m definitely in the minority. Why I feel it is necessary to write an article about this is because the reasons people gave for hating the movie were, well, some of the reasons why I actually enjoyed it. For those who are curious about the movie, and perhaps don’t want to read an in depth review in case it spoils some things about the film, you’ll have this article to use as both a list of warnings and a list of things to be excited about, depending on how you view the movie afterwards. Ladies and gentlemen, here is:
THE TOP TEN REASONS WHY MOST PEOPLE HATED
PASSION/I LOVED PASSION
10. “The leads seem so out of place and are mismatched!”
Yes, a big issue everyone had even before the movie came out was that Rachel McAdams was not only going to play a boss, but she was going to play Noomi Rapace’s boss. People were asking why it wasn’t the other way around? Why was the youthful, bubbly McAdams a boss and the mature, collected Rapace merely an underling? This entry ranks the lowest, because Rapace as an employee nailed the part but McAdams as a boss took some getting used to. I eventually warmed up to McAdams’s character while growing to hate her (strange how the world works, isn’t it?), because I think I saw where De Palma was going with casting McAdams as the boss. In fact, McAdams herself thought she was being offered the part Rapace ended up with, so don’t worry if you’re in the same boat. What I think De Palma was going for with McAdams as the boss was using her superficial, facetious nature she donned in Mean Girls and applying it here in a real world setting to amplify the childish nature of the situation. Most people can’t see past the immaturity of McAdams’s ruthless character, but I began to welcome it, because it speaks so much more about the stupidity of the situation and the overall tediousness of her fueling the fire and prolonging the tension. It just seemed so much more unfair to have a bratty horny girl as a superior than it did a woman who was just bitter. Also, some food for thought: Noomi Rapace is 32, and Rachel McAdams is 33. The more you know.
9. “Wow, those are some cheesy lines! What is this, a cheap porno movie?”
Oddly enough, I’ve heard the dialogue being compared to a porno movie. I didn’t make that complaint entirely up, so don’t get too mad at me. While De Palma movies aren’t exactly Shakespearean in nature, hasn’t he always had cheesy lines? Even some of his biggest films are known for their cheesy lines, including Carrie and Scarface; the former having wonderful lines like “Got Satan’s power” and “Who are you calling a stupid shit?”, the latter being infamous for the amount of times it swears. Let’s face it: De Palma’s films have always had stupid dialogue, and yet that’s part of the magic of it all. Passion is no exception. So many of the lines sound like they were lifted from an x rated movie, and I’m pretty sure that it’s intentional, especially since sex is usually a big theme of his in most of his films. If the visuals range from easy to look at to downright disturbing, I can’t imagine why the dialogue in his films wouldn’t do the same especially as comic relief (I’ll get back to this later on in the article). In fact, the awkwardness that comes from these kinds of lines actually does a few things apart from being funny: It creates more of an unsettling mood so disturbing moments are even more disturbing, it helps separate you from the film and appreciate it more as an art form (something else I’ll get into as well), and it makes fun of both the adult industry and films with unintentionally bad dialogue (of which I don’t think Passion is). Many great films have had bad adult-movie like dialogue to set moods (see Lynch films Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive as great examples, and even Twin Peaks). Some directors just like lighting up the mood with some downright awkward lines, but I can see why this can put people off because, well, they are awkward. For me it’s just entertaining when done well.
8. “Whocaresreviews, you can’t tell me the premise was actually good!”
While I won’t say it was brilliant, I think the premise gets hated on more than it should. I don’t mean the whole boss stealing an idea thing. I mean the idea being stolen. This is something many people had an issue with. It’s not really a spoiler, but in case you don’t want to know what happens literally in the first two minutes or so, skip to 7. Basically, the idea that Isabelle comes up with for the marketing firm in order to sell the new hot smart phone is making a viral video that shows women keeping the smart phone in their back pockets with the camera on to see which men would look at their asses. On paper, yes, this is pretty stupid. However, think about it. Truly think about it. When I saw this movie premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, De Palma was asked about the influence of social media. He mentioned how smart phones play a big part in the film, and this is no exception. Honestly, think about what social media has amused us with in the past:
1) Sneezing Pandas
2) Laughing Babies
3) A Guy Crying About Britney Spears
4) Some Kid Trying To Legitimately Become A Super Saiyan
Now that I’ve lost most of my audience because they were confused about that last part (If you got it, kudos, you’re stuck in your childhood as well!), I’ll get to the point. Isabelle’s idea was seen as genius, and kind of is, because she knows that we pay attention to really stupid things now, especially in a world with such a short attention span. People ridiculed this concept when they saw the film, but here’s the kicker: This was based off of a real advertisement that actually worked. By saying this concept is stupid, they’re saying that the millions of people that fell in love with the real advertisement are stupid. De Palma’s got something going here. Also, I’d like to note that it’s rather funny knowing just how crazy and depressing everything gets over this: An ass camera. People are being deceived backstabbed, and actually threatened over an ass camera advert. Tell me that isn’t hilarious in a depressing kind of way.
7. “I can’t take this film seriously. It’s too over the top!”
This and 6 are kind of paired, and you’ll see what I mean. There are two kinds of people that went to these initial screenings: De Palma fans, and those there for Rachel McAdams. McAdams fans are used to her usual fare, you know, the Hollywood land “everything will be ok” kind of films. Since she was at the actual screening, fans wanted a chance to see her and to see her new film. Boy, were they in for a surprise. This film went beyond anything she’s done before (apart from the new Malick film, which got the same response from McAdams fans). This film has been called all over the place and way too bizarre by some. Oddly enough, weren’t films like Phantom of the Paradise and Carrie and, wow, even Scarface, described the same way? Phantom of the Paradise did horribly all over the world (except Manitoba, figure that one out), and now it’s a huge cult film and one of De Palma’s “masterpieces”. Scarface was even nominated for a Razzie award for worst director, and look at how big it is now. De Palma makes films that tend to make more of a statement years after they have been made. That’s not to say he hasn’t made a bad film. He’s certainly made quite a few. I just don’t think Passion is one of them. Maybe it too will be more liked as the years go by? I mean, to go from possibly the worst directed film of the year to being a huge film in the gangster genre without changing the film at all says it all.
6. “What are you talking about, 7? It wasn’t bizarre enough!”
Now we look at the De Palma fans that are used to his crazy films of the past, and they think they have been deceived. The film isn’t as sexual as the trailer promised, or there wasn’t so many moments of complete weirdness. A lot of it was oddly enough contained, despite the cheesy lines, huge sense of falseness and even the off the walls finale. Some people wanted it to be even more insane (make up your minds, really!). See, I think it has the right amount of insanity. It’s enough to be exciting and off putting (whilst being engaging), but also enough to stick to the formal style the film has going. Why I loved the visuals so much was because every single shot looked like it could be featured in a fashion magazine; an appropriate quality for a film about rich business women. The film, while having a lot of weird qualities, also has a sense of professionalism attached to it. The font in the opening credits looks like it came out of GQ. The filters look like they were made for a nikon camera. The make up and costumes are for photo shoots, not every day life. See, everything seems to be still very out there but in a nice way. It still feels like De Palma’s classic style of film, but it also feels sleek and controlled. I guess people want Passion to either be completely whacky or not whacky at all, but I like this moderated feel of the film because it shares a bit of both worlds.
5. “Wow that soundtrack was terrible! It was like elevator music!”
This one, I can somewhat agree with but can also strongly disagree with. The score has been described as dreadful and completely separate from the film by a number of people already, so it’s actually a common issue (which is strange, because the music in a film is rarely considered a huge low point). When the film starts, you get this really cliche piano music, but again, I think that’s the entire point. The movie starts off with a statement on how false and downright silly the work environment is especially for richer people that work in offices. Everybody pretends to like each other, everybody dresses up as if it makes them any more important, and you’ll find garbage music filling up offices just to boost moods (whether it’s sleazy lounge music or the top 40 soft rock songs, tell me most work environments don’t have terrible music on). In fact, some parts of the movie had wonderful music in my opinion. Some of it stunk, but I got more out of the scene because of it and it spoke more to me than if it had good emotional music. Other scenes had the necessary music and they had so much more of an impact because of this. POTENTIAL SPOILER there’s a key scene where Isabelle is at a ballet performance, and the music from this performance lines up with the events happening to Christine. It’s such a weird but pleasant contrast. /SPOILER I’ve certainly seen movies with much worse music, and even the somewhat low points of the score here can add to a scene. However, again, I can see why people would be put off by this, but I just find it to be a fun statement at times and actually good at the other times.
4. “Oh wow, real original! Who does this guy think he is, Hitchcock?”
De Palma has said many a time that he views film making just as much of an art form as music, photography and even painting. With that in mind, he’s never been afraid to show his influences on his sleeves. It’s no secret that the end of Passion was definitely a big homage to the great master of suspense himself Alfred Hitchcock, and without giving anything away, De Palma actually confirmed this at the Toronto International Film Festival. In all honesty, I can’t even understand why this is seen as a bad thing. First of all, many directors, even good ones, have made tributes and homages to other directors before. Quentin Tarantino is infamous for stuffing as many references and tributes as he can into his films. Even Martin Scorsese has admitted to being influenced by other films and directors before, naming a few films (like The Quiet Man) as inspiration for his opus Raging Bull. Even Steven Spielberg, probably the biggest director, has been influenced by films and directors (the similarities between The Battle of Algiers and Schindler’s List are not coincidental, kids). Why is it such a bad thing that Passion’s final act is so influenced by Hitchcock? In fact, why is it so bad when De Palma’s actually been praised for making a tribute to Hitchcock before? Blow Out was well received for its Hitchcock-ian style, and in fact was considered a great tribute. I can understand if people think the ending of Passion is a bad tribute, but that’s not the complaint I have heard (so far). No. It’s just because it is a tribute. In that regard, I thought it was a very interesting modern day tribute, especially since it took the same kind of pacing, music and tension and incorporated them with modern day shots, technology and lighting. With this modernized feel, it’s not like people will complain about the film being dated, right?
3. “This film is dated.”
Dammit, are you kidding me? Anyways, another huge complaint was that the film feels dated. People have said that classic De Palma works because it was from that time, and thus it carries a sense of nostalgia and a bit of the era on its shoulders. With Passion, it has no excuse to feel like it’s from another era because it’s from now, and thus it’s just silly. If this was said maybe four or five years ago, I’d give people the benefit of the doubt and say “okay, maybe it does seem out of place”. However, after last year, how is this even remotely true? Let’s look at what was one of the biggest films last year: Drive. Drive featured so many qualities taken from the “How to be from the 80’s” handbook. It music was synth based and poppy, the colours were neon and bright, and the shots were so similar to the shots of the 80s, when film makers began to film big blockbuster movies with a new approach. Here’s the fun part: Drive doesn’t take place in the 80’s. If it does, then slap me and call me an idiot, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. It’s just a tribute to both an older era and European cinema. Fine, if you think Drive is a bad example, what about The Expendables? Yeah, isn’t that film loved by many because of how dated it is? It made millions because of millions of people who wanted cheesy 80’s action with old, dated action stars. For Joe Pesci’s sake, it’s called THE EXPENDABLES! That in itself means they are dated doesn’t it? Why is that alright but here it isn’t, when De Palma’s classic style is known to be a combination of many factors (in this case, the 80’s are a bit of the bigger picture)? People don’t mention the great blend of European and American cinema, or the modernity brought into the story when the original, Love Crime, didn’t feature a lot of it. Instead, they focus on the small throwbacks to 80’s dialogue and the occasional 80’s visual techniques like they are a bad thing (yet they’re okay in other films that exploit these qualities on a much grander scale). Weird.
2. “The uneven pacing was atrocious! Is this an upbeat movie or a heavy one?”
Yeah, the first half and second half of the film do feel quite different, but that’s not always a bad thing, even though it usually is. The first half is full of sexual tension, office bitchiness, and childish revenge on one another. The second half gets much darker and twisted, involving psychotic traumas, mental games, grief and guilt, and mystery. It’s as if the film goes from your usual drama film to being almost a film noir. Again, I feel that De Palma likes to exaggerate what we experience in real life, and, like the music replicated this, I feel that the pacing is no different. The first is the upbeat everyday life we all go through. We go to work, stuff happens, we come home. End of story. When we face traumatic experiences of any kind, life just seems to change so drastically. I think the film shows this really well, and I welcome the different second half. However, it’s only fair to see why people would not like this. Just because life works like this, that doesn’t mean it will translate to film. Many things don’t translate to film well, it’s a given. I just think this ending adds so much to the feel of the film. SPOILER The first half, we see Christine’s conniving ways eating away at Isabelle, and we see Isabelle get closer and closer and closer to her breaking point. The second half, we see it. We see the explosion of rage. We see the peak being reached. It’s like watching a kid being bullied at school day after day until one day he retaliates and breaks the bully’s nose. /SPOILER The film creates this feeling rather well in my opinion, and it’s not easy for a film to work without a constant flow, but the very rare time it works, it’s memorable.
1. “…Was I supposed to laugh during this?”
There’s a reason why this is #1. There’s a reason why this seemingly miniscule entry tops the list. In fact, there are a few reasons. The first reason is that this entry may tie every other entry together, which I will get to. The second is because this question was asked by people who tweeted from the Toronto premiere of the film, of which I was at. Before the film, the very film that people have ridiculed for being “unintentionally funny”, the director, the very man who was in charge of the film and of whom wrote this adaptation, said to everyone in the audience “I think you’ll have a lot of fun with this one”. Fun. That’s a peculiar word. Why, that implies that it’s not entirely serious.
OF COURSE IT MEANS THAT.
If someone saw this movie in theaters and had the same question, then I’d forgive them. To have people who were in the very room the very moment the brains behind the film said that this was a fun film ask if they were supposed to laugh is just ridiculous, even for other reasons. 1) De Palma’s classic style of films have always been fun to an extent, or at least have had some sort of comic relief to lighten the mood. 2) Moments of the film people laughed at were clearly over the top on purpose. When Isabelle laughs hysterically like a hyena, it’s to be funny and to ease the tension of that scene before the film gets too dark too soon. The adult movie lines? To be laughed at. The concept of an ass camera being the subject of threatening hatred? Hilarious if you think about it. Rarely has a De Palma movie not been fun in some sort of way, even if in a small way. Remember in The Untouchables, when the music by Ennio Morricone is so uplifting and triumphant and Kevin Costner’s character is busy being confused and asking “why the hell are we going in here?”? It was a funny and awkward contrast. What about the very out of place exercise scene in Carrie that had carnival like music that never shows up again? Funny and out of place. If people have loved and accepted this trait from De Palma before, why on earth are they questioning it now? You may say “Oh but two kinds of people saw Passion remember? What about the McAdams fans that didn’t know any better?”. To that, I reply with this…
… IF THE FILM MAKER SAYS IT’S MEANT TO BE FUN, IT’S MEANT TO BE FUN.