The Maiden Heist (The Lonely Maiden)


The Maiden Heist

It's Hell to grow old - you get a lot more of your pictures going straight to DVD!

(2009) Caper Comedy (Yari Film Group) Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman, William H. Macy, Marcia Gay Harden, Breckin Meyer, Bhavesh R. Patel, Stephen Stapinski, Philip Dorn Hebert, Anthony M. Cascio, Bart A. Piscitello Jr., Joseph McKenna, Todd Weeks. Directed by Peter Hewitt

 

Art is a very personal thing. There’s no telling what will inspire us, capture our imagination, create an obsession. That isn’t limited to the wealthy and educated – anyone can find themselves captivated by a work of art.

That’s what happened to Roger Barlow (Walken). He’s a security guard for the Boston Art Museum and one of the paintings under his charge, The Lonely Maiden has gotten under his skin. The forlorn look of the maiden standing on the beach has him scouring the internet for information on the artwork and its artist to the point he knows more about it than the docents do.

He’s not alone in this regard. Fellow security guards Charles Peterson (Freeman) and George McLendon (Macy) have a similar problem, albeit with different works of art. In George’s case, he has a statue that’s a particular favorite; it inspires him to get naked and imitate the statue’s pose – alongside the statue itself. To each their own.

Charles has a thing about a picture of a woman with cats on a different floor of the museum. All of the men are friendly with one another until they get yet another thing in common – their pieces of art have been sold by the Curator (Weeks) to a Danish Art Museum. Suddenly, it appears their obsessions will be taken from them. All three agree that this can’t stand.

They decide that their obsessions must be stolen and replaced by fakes. Not being particularly adept artists themselves, they enlist a starving artist (Meyer) to recreate the artwork to the standards of the men. This isn’t easy as the men are very particular and they need to be – the artwork has to be good enough to fool the experts.

They have a pretty foolproof plan but there are a few snags – one of them being Roger’s wife Rose (Harden) who dreams of Florida and is amassing the funds for a vacation there. In order to pay the starving artist to do the work they need (and get other supplies needed for the switchola) Roger has to raid his wife’s vacation fund without her knowing. The fact of the matter is that these are far from being professionals – will they be able to pull this off?

I think with a cast like this one, a lot of people might be surprised they’ve never heard of this film. It was due to be released back in May 2009 but the bankruptcy of the distributor left it dangling in the wind. The movie was eventually picked up by Sony and sent straight to DVD – do not pass Go, do not collect, well anything.

And quite frankly there’s a reason Sony didn’t put this into theaters. Despite the cast full of Oscar winners and nominees, the movie is pretty scattered. The plot goes careening all over the map like an out of control radio controlled plane before crashing in a neighbor’s yard. The caper aspects kind of don’t make sense a lot of time and stretch credibility.

At least with a cast of actors this distinguished you know you’re not going to get amateurish performances. Walken and Freeman acquit themselves well, although Macy looks decidedly uncomfortable as a guy who is something of a pervert – and not in a good way. Harden winds up being shrill and unlikable for the most part, until the very last reel. She was certainly misused here.

I generally like caper movies but they have to be smart and they have to be clever (which sounds like the same thing but it isn’t). This one is neither and despite the stellar cast misfires most of the time. There are a few moments here and there that work (particularly near the end) but too much of the movie relies on stupid people doing stupid things – which is just lazy writing.

WHY RENT THIS: The actors give it a good college try and there are some poignant moments.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Kind of a mess with the caper aspect being the worst offender. Too many clichés spoil the plot.

FAMILY VALUES: There are a few curse words scattered throughout, some brief nudity and a bit of fantasy violence.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The art museum scenes were primarily filmed at the Worcester Art Museum in Worcester, MA.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There’s a blooper reel…and not much else.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: Not available.

FINAL RATING: 4/10

NEXT: Zookeeper

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The Double Hour (La doppia ora)


The Double Hour (La doppia ora)

Kseniya Rappoport may be emerging behind murky glass but the picture is growing no clearer.

(2009) Thriller (Goldwyn) Kseniya Rappoport, Filippo Timi, Antonia Truppo, Gaetano Bruno, Fausto Russo Alesi, Michele Di Mauro, Lorenzo Gioielli, Lidia Vitale, Lucia Poli, Giorgio Colangeli, Chiara Nicola, Gilda Postiglione Turco. Directed by Giussepe Capotondi

Some movies can’t really be described in too much detail without giving away vital twists and turns. The Italian thriller The Double Hour is a lot like that. That’s why the plot description is going to be a bit bare and vague.

Guido (Timi) is an ex-cop whose wife passed away three years earlier (we never find out how) and has become a somewhat diffident aficionado of speed dating. He is somewhat attractive in a hangdog kind of way, and his attempts at speed dating often lead to one night stands with desperate women (Vitale) that leave him unfulfilled.

He meets Sonia (Rappoport) at one of these. She is a Slovenian who has immigrated to Turin and is working as a hotel chambermaid. Recently she was witness to a horrific occurrence there. She is lonely and bored and is urged by her friend Margherita (Truppo) to get out more. She goes to the same speed date and runs into Guido.

Something happens between the two. The beginnings of a relationship begin to form. He invites her to the country estate where he is currently working as a security guard, showing her some of the sound equipment he’s built from scratch. They go for a walk in the idyllic countryside grounds of the estate. That’s when things go decidedly and horribly wrong.

Capotondi has a background in music videos. He utilizes music nicely, such as The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” which shows up in a more sinister way than perhaps Robert Smith ever envisioned his song becoming. Capotondi has said in interviews that he is influenced by Italy’s giallo horror films of Dario Argento and his brethren. Sections of the movie show it quite clearly. He also seems to have a thing about Hitchcock, as portions of the movie also show. There are also some Brian de Palma moments as well. The movie is at various times a supernatural thriller, a heist picture, a romantic drama and an art film. You can decide what description is most apt on your own.

The acting is superb here. Rappoport has been getting a great deal of acclaim for her performance. She has moments where she seems as fragile as a waif, lost and lonely. There are other times where she is strong and assertive, particularly when she is dealing with Guido’s fellow policeman Dante (Di Mauro) who has some suspicions regarding events at the villa.

The movie is surreal in places and will leave you with your head spinning. You almost wish you had a rewind button in the theater, thinking to yourself, did I just see what I think I saw? In some ways it will be less effective on DVD/Blu-Ray because people will be using their rewind buttons and slow-mo features which might spoil some of the surprises.

Subtitles will turn some off, and so will the abrupt mood and style shifts. There is one shift in particular, between the second and third act that is jarring to the point where you almost wonder if the filmmakers decided they didn’t like the script, junked it and started a new one at that point. It may make purists a little perturbed.

Still, this is a movie worth hanging in there for. The twists and turns here are amazing, as good as any movie since perhaps The Sixth Sense or Memento. This is a movie that is as good as any theme park ride, and those who are willing to go along for the ride won’t be disappointed. Just beware: this is not a kiddy ride in any sense. This is a ride only for those who aren’t afraid of adult thrills. This is that roller coaster with so many inversions you don’t know which way is up when you get off the ride and the only thing you can think about is getting right back on for another shot. The Double Hour (which refers to the time on the digital clock when the hour readout is the same as the minute readout, such as 10:10 or 12:12 – or 23:23 for those European readers) is like that, and it’s the kind of movie that bears repeated viewings and will certainly inspire some discourse once you’ve seen it the first time.

REASONS TO GO: Wonderful twists and turns. Haunting performance by Rappoport. This is the kind of movie that inspires spirited discussions.

REASONS TO STAY: One of the movie’s major twists is so abrupt that some might find it off-putting.

FAMILY VALUES: Although not rated, there is some sexuality and nudity, a bit of bad language and some violence.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Rappoport won the Volpi Cup as Best Actress at the 66th Venice Film Festival in 2009.

HOME OR THEATER: Chances are you will have trouble finding it at your local Bijou, but should work just as effectively on your home screen.

FINAL RATING: 8/10

TOMORROW: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo