Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Downloading Nancy **
Director: Johan Renck
Cast: Maria Bello, Jason Patric, Rufus Sewell, Amy Brenneman
As if trying to give his movie a final chance for some redemptive-or even human-qualities, director Johan Renck shows us a title card that reads "inspired by true events", then the ending credits roll.
His intention was probably to elicit a collective gasp that would send moviegoers debating the controversial subject the film deals with. But it works instead as a troubling statement that contradicts the previous ninety six minutes or so, because absolutely nothing in "Downloading Nancy" feels alive.
That would make sense in a movie that has a lot to do with death, but its own sense of detachment makes it impossible for the audience to get interested in what's going on.
Bello plays Nancy, a depressed housewife with fetishist (self mutilation and violent sex) practices who wishes death more than anything else.
Her husband Albert (Sewell), busy with his airport golf business idea, barely notices her existence and her psychotherapist (Brenneman) has reached a dead end trying to help her.
Fortunately for Nancy, you can find anything on the internet and she meets Louis (Patric), a loner who is willing to have painful sex with her before he kills her.
The film uses fractured narration in which we see how Nancy interacts with the other characters, but if the intention was to make us understand her, Nancy always remains impenetrable.
Bello gives a conflictive performance and the movie's coldness might in fact be owed to her, because she makes Nancy someone impossible to empathize with.
Even when given stereotypical dialogues, mostly in her therapy scenes, she delivers them with a conviction that make us wonder how much of Nancy is actually a learned performance.
When Louis reminds her that after he kills her "it will be the end of everything" she gives him a warm, almost hopeful, smile and replies "that's the whole idea".
Patric-proving how underrated he's remained-is nothing short of brilliant, his Louis is a mysterious creation that gives the film its only hints of authenticity.
Even when the story tries to turn him into a serial killer-ish character, the actor stays true to who he made the character to be.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Louis starts developing feelings for Nancy, it's almost a structural given, the surprise is how Patric channels those feelings.
The way he looks at her, the way he listens (while Bello has a good 'ole time chewing the scenery in fight scenes) all amount to making him someone who might've achieved a kind of love nobody, but him understands.
It's a shame for his performance that the rest of the movie isn't able to make him justice.
"Downloading Nancy" is made out of several parts that work independently (Christopher Doyle's sterile cinematography is fascinating if a bit too facile) but as a whole just make us feel like the movie is merely a contraption that never really answers the question: why doesn't Nancy just get it over and done with?