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Total Crap: 8.7%

3 reviews, 5 user ratings

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by Natasha Theobald

"Dueling Realities"
4 stars

Imagine a room with a locked door. The walls are yellow and white. There is a large window offering a small glimpse of the world outside and a smaller window with a view of the hallway, filled with other, similar rooms. On the bed is Denis Leary. Hope Davis is in the chair next to him. Now, for two hours, you will watch them talk. If this sounds good to you, I have a movie to recommmend.

The relationship is doctor and patient, psychiatrist and potentially crazy person. The conflict is that each person has a concept of reality quite dissimilar from the other. The complication is in the inherent power structure of such a situation. The doctor is in charge of everything, but the patient can claim small victories with small choices about what to share and when.

Bill wakes up in the yellow and white room. He is convinced that it is the future and has various ideas about the plans for him in it, including a final injection, which will end his life. He looks out the window and sees what he thinks is a falsified reality. His only contact is with the orderlies who bring the sedatives and restraints and Ann, Dr. Johnson, with whom he talks. He quizzes her obsessively, trying to get her to slip up and betray the fact that she is not of his time. But, Ann is a cautious and methodical sort. It is difficult for him to find cracks in her facade.

Ann, despite herself, is somewhat drawn to Bill. There is something about him that speaks to something in her that has been long shut away. We don't know what it is, and he doesn't know what it is. There is something hiding Ann's spark, betraying a hurt somewhere deep in her. But, she is the doctor, not the patient. She must remain in control.

Hope Davis plays the controlled facade with a soft underbelly in an incredibly vulnerable and honest way. Ann has a tight control on the desperation underneath, but as Bill wins her over with his wit and charm, we see the small cracks in her emotional state. Denis Leary embodies the wit and charm of Bill. He puts the best of his persona into the character, then fleshes him out with flashes of anxiety hinged by a stalwart belief that what he says is true. And, the two actors are so good that you don't mind that the action is confined to a small space for a majority of the time. They are able to hold the audience with the sheer audacity of their subtle and carefully crafted performances. These ideas are in the writing by Bruce McIntosh, and Leary and Davis bring them to life with skill and grace. The underlying current of uncertainty is never quenched, and the overt sense of something unsettling ebbs and flows.

Director Campbell Scott layers the scenes in the main room with flashes back in Bill's memory. We are reliving with him the last day he knew before being in this place. The picture was shot on digital video, and the visual effect is a spare and realistic image of the sanitized environment of the hospital itself and the sanitized version of the truth that is offered there. Everything feels very real in a very unsettling way, which works to the benefit of the story being told. We understand Bill's desire to run beyond the trees, because what we see around us is too institutional, too staid, and wholly uncompromising.

Music is important to Bill, and the way it is used throughout the movie is really ingenious. Music seems to ground him and carry him to his past, a time when he felt more like himself. The transition from the creepy silence of the hospital to the rich resonance of Bill's memories is very effective.

"Final" may seem too theatrical for some, but if you take pleasure in watching as characters reveal themselves to one another, layer by layer, you will be taken in by watching these actors unencumbered. If you are the type of filmgoer who likes questions answered well and now, you might prefer something that demands less patience and effort. All I know is that this film hasn't left me since I saw it, and, in my mind, that is high praise.

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originally posted: 09/16/02 11:40:17
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User Comments

9/27/09 TreeTiger People should be paid by the hour to watch this atrocious cinematic abomination. 1 stars
2/05/04 Paul L. terrific acting, pacing overcomes gimmicky nature. Everyone should be a Hope Davis fan. 4 stars
10/16/03 Cactus Josh Long scenes that do nothing to develop the story. The twist renders the first 2/3 nonsense. 1 stars
5/03/03 Rafe Williams Leary is impeccable, magnificent. Plot and acting: subdued, yet powerful. 4 stars
2/07/02 Peggy Plant It's only "slow" if you let it be slow. This movie has stayed with me; Leary is awesome! 5 stars
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Directed by
  Campbell Scott

Written by
  Bruce McIntosh

  Denis Leary
  Hope Davis
  Jim Gaffigan
  Helene Cardona
  Earl Hindman
  Guy Mason

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