by John Smith
In this movie, Jodie Foster shows us she can act - it's a very good performance. The movie is also the curtain raiser on her adult "look" which many, including myself, have come to love. The blonde Sigourney Weaver, Foster has a face like an Antarctic landscape, and an icy, intellect-heavy acting style to match. For this, and this alone, THE ACCUSED is a notable film.For, as with most "issue-driven" studio films, the compelling performance of the lead is let down by a vegetable-brained approach to the topic at hand. Foster deserved her Oscar, but the film nowadays looks like an old, disused launching pad, stained with the scorchmarks of Foster's career takeoff, and long since overgrown with weeds.
The pre-production meetings for THE ACCUSED must have gone something like this,
PRODUCER: "Rape is a bad thing."
DIRECTOR: "I would hate to be raped."
SCREENWRITER: "So would I."
PRODUCER: "Ok - let's film."
for this is how the film plays out - Foster approaches her character, Sarah Tobias, with intelligence, but the script and the overall pitch of the film is simpleton-level. It sets up an interesting dilemna, then refuses to explore it.
Sarah's a hard working person, and on the weekends she likes to get tanked, go out to bars and flirt with strangers. That's great, sounds like me actually, but even I would think twice before heading to the back room of the seediest bar in town, where big, well built working class men lurk in the corners, and proceed to hitch up my skirt and blow on a joint. Sarah wants to have a good time, but she's gotta know that's the wrong place to be doing it. It's just irresponsible behaviour on her part, and, commendably, the film doesn't shy away from presenting it as such.
After the rape, though, the film changes it's mind. Suddenly, Foster has a new role to play: Saint Sarah, short-changed by life (bad boyfriend, distant mother, no money) and in need of just one "fair go" from the "system". (Tellingly, she lops off her hair, and spends the second half of the movie looking like a working class Princess Diana. She even reveals a surprising gift for astrology, and a communion with the animal kingdom, as if demonstrating a connection with the Divine). The film turns her violent rape into her ticket to salvation - if she can punish the offenders, and be proven innocent of any implication in the incident herself, she can be sanctified, proven good, and fly off to rape-survivor heaven.
This short-changes the audience - it's condescending, too, and a waste of a good idea. What it does is take a very interesting tension of human nature - the need for freedom of expression versus the dangers of public exposure - and turns it into a disease-of-the-week courtroom drama.Foster does better with taut thrillers like THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS or wordy pieces like THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE - thoughtful films that complement her brittle acting and don't bog themselves in simplicity.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=3233&reviewer=305
originally posted: 03/29/02 20:00:06