If you’ve seen the poster for Orphan, you know that there is something “wrong with Esther”. And yes, believe me, there is something most definitely wrong with Esther.
Horror films, next to musicals, are my least favorite genre. But along with Drag Me to Hell earlier this year, 2009 is proving to bang out some frightful and intelligent ones. The best part about Orphan is its R rating. It doesn’t try to hide behind the teenage friendly PG-13, or carry a go-for-broke R (a la Hostel or Saw). Instead, we live with a family how they would normally live and talk. Basically, the rating helps with the overall believability of the picture.
Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John (Peter Sarsgaard) want to adopt a child after having lost one several months ago. They already have two kids of their own, but now they feel it’s time for another. In comes Esther, an incredibly polite, incredibly proper Russian girl. On the surface, as with most child-terrorizing horror films, Esther seems perfect, and it’s no surprise that it doesn’t take long for things to go very wrong.
There are several mysteries surrounding the little girl, and why ruin those here? The fun of any well-made horror film is letting yourself be scared, not read about all the frights in a spoiler-friendly review. Having said that, the only real faults I have with the film are in its ending, which I obviously can’t explain, but after you see the film, then we can talk about it. Don’t get me wrong, the end is good, but there were a few details I was forced to laugh off.
I’d recommended Orphan based solely off of Farmiga’s performance. I’ve been a great admirer of hers since she starred in the super small film, Down to the Bone, playing a coke-addicted mother in middle town America. (If you haven’t seen that film, find it, it convinced a little guy named Scorsese to cast Farmiga in The Departed.) She brings to Orphan a torn apart mother who slowly loses her grip on what’s real. It’s a performance of sheer believable desperation. If the Academy had any balls, they’d throw her a Best Actress nomination. B+