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Overall Rating

Awesome: 10%
Worth A Look: 26.67%
Pretty Bad: 3.33%
Total Crap: 18.33%

6 reviews, 24 user ratings

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Deep End, The
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"At sea"
3 stars

The Deep End boasts an engaging central performance from Tilda Swinton, but disappoints as a thriller.

With her fine, pale and fragile-as-porcelain features, Swinton (the English actress who mesmerised as the lead in Orlando) initially seems an odd choice to play a navy wife and mother of three in an American thriller. But it proves to be convincing casting from Scott McGehee and David Siegel (this is their second independent feature, after Suture in 1993). Like The Others, The Deep End is about a self-reliant mother who has to cope alone with a threat that affects her children.

In common with Alejandro Amenábar, who made The Others, Siegel and McGehee have cited the influence of 1940s Hollywood “women’s pictures”. It’s certainly refreshing to have two films with such strong female leading characters. But The Deep End is also a throwback to 1940s film noir - not in look, but elements of the plot (homosexual blackmail). Ironically, the film is distinctive for its un-noirish look - Giles Nuttgens’ beautiful photography is all shimmering water and glinting sunlight (although there are several significant night-time sequences, the majority of the film takes place during daylight).

“The Deep End” is a gay nightclub in Reno, California. Margaret Hall (Swinton) has discovered that her eldest son Beau (Jonathan Tucker), in his final year at high school, has been frequenting the club to see the older Darby Reese (a very arch Josh Lucas). She visits The Deep End to warn Reese away from her son. Heedless, he turns up at the Halls’ Lake Tahoe residence that night. Reese and Beau fight in the boathouse; Beau leaves; Reese topples from the gangway into the water. In the morning, Margaret finds Reese’s body - impaled on an anchor. She rows out into the lake and drops it overboard. Soon after the police’s discovery of the body is announced in the newspaper, Alek Spera (Goran Visnjic) arrives on Margaret’s doorstop. He has a videotape of Beau and Reese having sex and wants $50,000 - or he’ll take it to the police.

McGehee and Siegel directed, produced and wrote the screenplay (based loosely on Elisabeth Sanxay Holding’s novel The Blank Wall, which Max Ophüls directed as The Reckless Moment in 1949). Unfortunately, the screenplay is light on explanations and heavy with plot holes and incongruities. Beau and Reese are in a car accident together, before the movie starts. Why don’t the police even question Beau in relation to Reese’s death? How do Spera and his boss Nagel (an embarrassingly overdone performance from Raymond Barry) get the videotape? Who are they? I presumed they had some reason to connect Beau with the death of Reese, but it turns out they’re assuming the Halls will want to pay $50,000 to suppress evidence of their son’s homosexuality. There’s something very seedy about the portrayal of homosexuality in this movie - from Reese’s ridiculous moustache and predatory manner to the leering topless men in the nightclub to the antiquated gay blackmail plot that’s right out of the early 1960s.

Unanswered questions mount as The Deep End continues. Why doesn’t anyone notice Reese’s blue sports car parked outside the Hall home overnight? Do the police ever find it after Margaret moves it? Why does Margaret only wipe her prints from the steering wheel, and not the car door or anywhere else? Why rush off to the hospital leaving the door open and a threatening blackmailer in the house? Why does Spera think that an overturned car will fool the police into thinking that the passenger wasn’t suffocated to death?

I suspended disbelief until a crazed fight in the boathouse towards the end, where all credibility in the film collapsed (and Margaret is reduced to a helpless onlooker). Visnjic does well with a poorly motivated character, but Swinton is nearly always believable as Margaret. The best moments of the movie are seeing her take on the mounting problems of the dead body and the blackmail without anyone to turn to. Beau doesn’t confide in her, so she can’t talk to him; her husband’s at sea and uncontactable; her other children are too young; and she doesn’t seem to have much connection with her father-in-law (Peter Donat). We watch her juggle the crises between driving the kids to music and sport lessons. How often do we see the hero in a thriller folding away the laundry or putting out the garbage? Swinton looks two delicate to be the mother of three children, but these domestic scenes give her character a realistic grounding.

Besides the luminous photography, which encompasses some underwater shooting (water - the lake, a dripping tap, rain, a refill bottle for a water cooler - is a recurring motif), Peter Nashel’s haunting and melodic score is also worth noting.

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originally posted: 12/03/01 08:16:08
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User Comments

9/02/11 hurdygurdy man Somehow holds interest, guess waiting for SOMETHING to happen...OK if ya doin time. 2 stars
9/03/08 Shaun Wallner This one was kinda boring. 1 stars
6/05/07 R.W. Welch Sets up well but loses believability as it goes. 3 stars
1/15/07 David Pollastrini not horrible 3 stars
1/13/07 Tiffany it was good. saw it on dvd though. Maybe it was better at the movies. 4 stars
7/02/06 Jack Sommersby Appallingly overrated and riddled with many logic loopholes. 2 stars
11/12/05 jennifer awful 1 stars
9/08/05 eliza c preposterous 1 stars
4/17/04 Michael Greenwaldt A great, smart, engrossing film! Very well acted! 5 stars
7/21/03 francis Has anyone ever seen an anchor lying sharp point up. Too many plot problems. 3 stars
4/15/03 Jack Bourbon I'M IN LOVE WITH TILDA SWINTON. There, I said it. Is something wrong with me? 4 stars
4/12/03 Jack Sommersby Cliches dressed up in artsiness. Well, it doesn't wash. 1 stars
7/13/02 davebo good points and bad points kinda evened out 3 stars
5/27/02 Phil M. Afficianado Read Jim the Movie Freak's review. Story is unbelievable. Swinton unbelievably good. 3 stars
5/21/02 Shrike Slightly dissapointed, but not bad either 3 stars
4/20/02 natasha good acting, good story, interesting water imagery 4 stars
3/02/02 Unagiboy A little disappointed. Visnic's character's turnaround made no sense. Swinton was great! 3 stars
1/08/02 Anne I thought the acting was awesome! Best movie I've seen all year! 5 stars
11/28/01 Jimbo Well made and I enjoyed it 4 stars
10/08/01 adam Awful and absurdly overated.To use the phrase total crap sounds base. But it's appropriate. 1 stars
8/25/01 Suzz great performance by Swinton; a different kind of plot; great camera work. 5 stars
8/18/01 Heather Did Greg see the same movie as me? I loved this movie! 5 stars
8/15/01 ri bisi awesome 5 stars
6/04/01 Bronwyn Preston absolutely beautiful, emotionally rich and complex. I loved it. 5 stars
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  08-Aug-2001 (R)



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