Tag Archives: drama

Eden (2012), directed by Megan Griffiths

Eden_Poster♦♦

Human trafficking crime drama — about Eden (Jamie Chung), an 18 year old Korean-American girl who is kidnapped and forced into prostitution by a corrupt lawman (Beau Bridges) and his young crack-smoking assistant (Matt O’Leary) — confuses intelligence and resourcefulness with selfish opportunism, squandering all the sympathy we have for the girl immediately following her abduction.  Based on the lies of a woman named Chong Kim, whose story evidently was taken at face value by the filmmakers and only later shown to be fantasy when it was investigated by Breaking Out, an anti-trafficking non-profit organization.  The movie, however, retains the “based on a true story” title which, ironically, is more accurate here than in some other cases, as Kim appears to share the same vile personality traits as Eden.  For those who think making us hate inherently hateful people is an accomplishment.  Also known as Abduction of Eden.

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Rampage (1987), directed by William Friedkin

Rampage_ver2♦♦½

Thriller and courtroom drama about a whackjob who savagely kills five people and the prosecutor who, theoretically conflicted, argues in favor of the death penalty.  Based on the book by William P. Wood and “inspired by” true events — the case of serial killer Richard Chase.  Friedkin (who produced, wrote, and directed the film) provides no easy answers, yet fails to provide much in the way of food for thought, either, despite tackling both the death penalty and legal insanity.  Alex McArthur handles the “innocence” of insanity quite well (he’s certainly a cheerful maniac) and Michael Biehn is good as the prosecutor; the script, however, never allows either of them to dig very deeply into their characters or the issues surrounding them.  Which is just as well, as the ending undercuts their differing psychologies anyway.  Originally released in Europe with a different ending; re-cut and modified for US release by Friedkin after studio bankruptcy left the movie stranded on the shelf for five years.  Less violent than you might expect:  the really horrible stuff occurs off-screen.

Under Eighteen (1931), directed by Archie Mayo

Under_18♦♦♦♦

Riveting pre-Code romantic comedy-drama starring barely-18-year-old Marian Marsh as Margie, whose girlish dreams of marriage are assaulted by life on the poorer side of the big city and shattered when her older sister announces she wants a divorce.  “I’ve made up my mind,” Margie says, “that any time I hand myself to a man for life, it’s cash on delivery” — a sentiment that doesn’t sit well with love-struck boyfriend Jimmy (Regis Toomey), but finds favor with rich playboy Raymond (Warren William).  Rife with unpunished immorality and snappy dialogue.  Grim and fascinating, yet also funny and fast-paced.

Lovelace (2013), directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman

lovelace-poster - small♦½

I don’t know what we’re supposed to take away from this movie, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with “the seventies.” I say this because the filmmakers refuse to allow us to forget it. Just when we think we might — just when we think there might be a universal message hiding somewhere in all this — they blast us with another song or another TV clip (Richard Nixon, Johnny Carson, Phil Donohue) or some more of those crazy clothes people wore back then. I think maybe this movie is telling us, The seventies were real, man!

That’s about as deep as this movie ever gets. It’s hard to be incoherent and deep at the same time.

Linda Lovelace, of course, is the woman who starred in Deep Throat, the record-breaking porno film that helped mainstream the entire industry. It was reviewed in the New York Times. In 1980, she published her autobiography, Ordeal, in which she spoke out against pornography and domestic violence, the latter because she claimed to have been threatened and beaten by her husband, Chuck Traynor, and forced by him into porn and prostitution.

I have no doubt that bad things happened to Ms. Boreman (her real name). Just as I have no doubt that this movie, posthumously, is one of them. It’s an awful mishmash of scenes with conflicting messages, as if the filmmakers couldn’t quite decide who the bad guys were. Except for Chuck. He’s rotten from start to finish. (But for that kind of thing, you’d do better to watch Star 80.)

It’s safe to say that the porn industry comes out  unscathed. As a matter of fact, it’s actually kind of cute. There’s the loving recreation of Linda’s most famous role, for instance. Her co-star, Harry Reems, seems like a nice guy, and provides the basis for the film’s only humor, when he gets a little too excited by Linda’s famous talent. There’s the photographer who shoots her for the movie poster, who, Linda says (in awe), makes her beautiful. There are the porn bigwigs who protect her from Chuck later in the film.

If it’s about anything, this film is about domestic violence, but even that won’t fly because, without the porn, there was no point in making it about Lovelace, specifically. And as a biopic, it’s too disjointed and incomplete to be of any real value. Watching this picture I got the distinct impression that Linda only made one movie (Deep Throat), but the reality is, she appeared in adult loops, including one involving bestiality, as well as in the sequel to Throat.

I can’t think of any reason to see this movie except to ogle Amanda Seyfried’s breasts, and that is, I think, the strongest indictment against it.

Devil’s Knot (2013), directed by Atom Egoyan

Devil's_Knot_film_poster_(2013)♦♦½

Unfocused dramatization of the events surrounding the 1993 murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, including the investigation, arrest, trials, and convictions of three teenage boys for the crimes. The teenagers, later known as the West Memphis Three, received additional notoriety when questions began to be raised about the case, with many believing that they are innocent. Based on a book of the same name by Mara Leveritt, who believes the teenagers were
targeted in a “witch hunt” similar to that which occurred in Salem, Massachusetts, in the late 1600s. The murders of the boys were linked by police and prosecutors to Satanism and Satanic ritual. Meanwhile, other leads, particularly one involving a black man who on the night of the murders reportedly entered a restaurant bleeding and disoriented, were ignored. That’s a lot of ground to cover for any dramatization, and there’s more besides, such as a woman and her son, both of whom appear to have lied to police: the woman about attending a satanic ritual with two of the accused, her son about having witnessed the murders.

More like a series of reenactments than a dramatization, the film fails to probe any aspect of the case or the people involved with any depth. That said, it opens well with Reese Witherspoon and young Jet Jurgensmeyer as mother and son, and the fateful if perfectly natural decision to allow the boy to go out riding bikes with his friends. The sequence ends with the discovery of the bodies. The bulk of the film, if viewed as a kind of primer on the case, is compelling enough, but those familiar with what happened may become bored by the wide-ranging superficiality of it all. Devil’s Knot is a deeply flawed film, but one which, for its subject matter and themes, may appeal to those interested in true crime.