Monday, December 14, 2009

Review: Neverwas

Sometimes it's worth watching a movie you know absolutely nothing about. I had been looking for something different to get from Netflix when I came across Neverwas (2005), a movie they had listed as a thriller. I saw that it starred Ian McKellen, which suggested to me that even if the movie was bad, his acting would make it worth my time. The plot summary from Netflix reads: "After taking a job at the mental institution that once housed his father, a famous children's author, erudite psychiatrist Zach Riley befriends a schizophrenic who unlocks a string of family secrets." Needless to say, despite a forced beginning, the movie turned out to be amazing. It's certainly not a thriller in any action-packed sense. Rather, it's an adult fairytale, one which I'm realizing now as I write this probably appealed to me much in the same way A.S. Byatt's writing does. The movie invites you to question the blurred boundaries of reality, insanity, and fantasy, and unfolds in a way that makes you want to know more, and to feel more. The movie was written and directed by Joshua Michael Stern, and for his freshman outing in moviemaking, he accomplished something of which others would be jealous. The true accomplishment in the film, however, rests with the acting of some surprising stars. In addition to McKellen, who is superb, there is Jessica Lange, Nick Nolte, Alan Cumming, William Hurt, and others who round out an amazing cast. Aaron Eckhart plays the protagonist, and while his acting often seems stiff to me, I found myself warming up to him in this movie. Even Brittany Murphy, who plays the main female role (I shan't give away details), was surprisingly good. The soundtrack by Philip Glass was as haunting and disturbing as Glass's music can be, but it worked well, especially in the forest scene (see the picture above). Watch this movie. It's a great story with an emotional tug that borders on melodrama but fortunately never tips over, and when you finally feel it, you will feel it good. Here is the trailer for the movie, but be forewarned: it makes you think it's a kids' fantasy, but in fact it's very much a story for adults.

UPDATE (12/20/09): Brittany Murphy died today at the age of 32, apparently of cardiac arrest. As I mentioned above, she never was one of my favorite actresses, but she was surprisingly good in this film and certainly showed that she had talent. Very sad. Here is a link to her obituary in The New York Times.

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