Films I Neglected to Review: Smith & BonesBy Peter Sobczynski
Posted 02/04/17 08:02:38
Please enjoy short reviews of ''The Autopsy of Jane Doe'' and ''Growing Up Smith.''
On the surface, the premise of ''The Autopsy of Jane Doe'' may make it seem like a cheesy example of the horror genre at its most basic but, much like the titular process, the further it goes along, the creepier it gets. The screenplay by Ian Goldberg and Richard Naing may not exactly break new ground but it takes all the standard tropes--slamming doors, things lurking in the shadows and radios that mysteriously burst to life at inopportune moments with unsettling broadcasts--and deploys them in smart and entertaining ways. For his part, director Andre Ovredal stages the horror beats with undeniable flair--he knows both how to milk a moment for the maximum amount of tension and how to make it eventually pay off in spades--so that even when you can see what is coming a mile away, he can still get you to jump in your seat. The performances from Cox and Hirsch are both quite strong--they are clearly having fun with the material but never condescend to it--and Olwen Catherine Kelly makes for a singular presence as the Jane Doe in question. Maybe the finale doesnít quite work as well as one might have hoped--while there is nothing especially wrong with it, it just seems to lack some of the ingenuity of the rest of the film--but for the most part, ''The Autopsy of Jane Doe'' is an uncommonly effective item that will satisfy not just genre buffs buts anyone who enjoys watching a smart and well-told story.
The movie is undeniably well-meaning, the two young stars are charming and the material about accepting other cultures is quite timely now. With all that going for it, it is a shame that the film as a whole is kind of bland and uninspiring. In ways both big and small, it feels more like a TV show--and a contrived one at that--and rarely if ever has the tinge of real life that might have made it into something special. For example, we know how strict and tradition-bound Smithís parents are (he even gets punished for going against the familyís vegetarian ways by sampling some illicit KFC) but he then insists that his favorite movie back then was ''Saturday Night Fever'' and even busts out a white suit and clumsy disco moves in an attempt to impress Amy--a cute joke, I suppose, but one that feels like a bit. Unfortunately, there are too many moments like that on display here where the story feels like it is working from a checklist than authentic human experience and as a result, the big emotional moments never quite register in the ways that they should. This is probably the kind of film that is better appreciated seen at home on a television (it already feel like a series pilot at times) where its modest virtues can shine better and its flaws are not quite as noticeable.
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