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Overall Rating

Awesome: 25%
Worth A Look: 8.33%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap66.67%

1 review, 6 user ratings

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Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael, The
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by William Goss

"The Kids Aren't Alright"
1 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: I do not believe myself to be particularly sensitive or susceptible to subject matter in films that society tends to deem as extreme or explicit. Call me callous, but I am not one to dismiss something graphic as worthless or even dangerous simply because it is difficult to stomach. As such, for roughly ninety percent of its running time, 'The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael' is merely a tremendously tepid after-school special draped in art-house direction, relatively ineffective and inoffensive in equal measure.

First-time writer/director Thomas Clay follows the introverted teenage violinist of the title (Daniel Spencer) around the sleepy seaside town of Newhaven, as he slowly finds himself drawn into the wrong crowd and involving himself with sex, drugs, swearing and other naughty habits that are only encouraged by his shady peers and their drug dealer friends. Clay's direction is reasonable, but the shots linger on much too long to too little effect. Just about every third word in the screenplay, co-written by Joseph Lang, is four letters long and either begins with 'fu-' or 'cu-'. In one scene, a character walking along a street of parked vehicles spots an open window, pauses, urinates inside the car, and then proceeds onward. The film is strung together of such moments, observed discussions and behaviors that make logical sense, but lack emotional impact. Above all, Robert remains woefully underdeveloped, leaving the viewer to examine his downward spiral with the slightest of interest. Are an alarming amount of bored English teens becoming morally corrupted, and if so, is it really enough to justify an entire movie about such deviant behavior? The camera moves, the characters move, but the viewer never does.

Although painfully prolonged and thoroughly dull, the majority of the movie is competently assembled and barely passable. However, the filmís largest failing is in its ending, as the film culminates in the assault, rape, and murder of a local television chef (Michael Howe) and his wife (Miranda Wilson) by Robert and friends while under the influence. This graphic sequence is tremendously unnerving as it directly depicts the violations as they take place without any apparent reason. An off-screen rape does take place earlier in the film, and in scenes between these acts, the war in Iraq is dominant on every visible television screen. Are these violations intended to parallel the forced and unwelcome invasions that are taking place on a worldwide scale and being ignored by everyone else?

Even if this is the case, the metaphor is not so much pretentious as it is pathetic, a statement handled with no subtlety or tact. I cannot give credit to a film which disgusts to no reasonable end, tossing out an allegory to which one could draw hollow conclusions when one would rather not devote any additional attention whatsoever. I do believe a more striking and effective film can be crafted with similar capability, intent, and even severity, but considering the resources exhausted and effort made in this case, the filmmakers have proven themselves to be selfish and irresponsible to create something so utterly reprehensible.

In my modest lifetime, I have neither walked out of a single movie nor regretted my decision to remain until the end, no matter how much I loathed it. Despite Clayís best efforts, that trend remains unblemished. When critics say that they see bad movies so that audiences donít have to, 'The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael' is a superlative example of exactly what they mean. A colleague had caught a prior screening and left an hour in, which was almost a shame. He claimed to have hated it, but to his benefit, he didnít know what he was missing. Hereís to hoping the same may be said of you.

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originally posted: 05/07/06 12:58:49
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/18/09 Sean Atmospheric, very real, lays bare social problems, thoroughly depressing viewing, I enjoyed 4 stars
5/28/07 Glenn W To make an analogy, this movie rapes the viewer, as it is worse than the Manson murders 1 stars
7/08/06 William Goss Never once did I mention the size of the budget. Regardless, I still stand by my opinion. 1 stars
7/02/06 Ahem! The film was in fact shot on a very small budget, to correct the reviewer. 5 stars
9/10/05 Rosie It's a well made film and the finale...has to be seen to judge ! 5 stars
8/28/05 john smith excellent 5 stars
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Directed by
  Thomas Clay

Written by
  Thomas Clay
  Joseph Lang

  Danny Dyer
  Lesley Manville
  Dan Spencer
  Ryan Winsley
  Charles Mnene
  Michael Howe

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