Tuesday, July 28, 2009


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+


  1. This is on my must-see list....partic after reading the review. Maybe the Academy will have some balls....

  2. I haven't seen this, so no comments there, but I noted "Horror films, next to musicals, are my least favorite genre," and now I'm becoming more worried that we might actually be the same person...

    Hmm, there's a plot idea. A guy finds a blog, starts interacting with the author, and somehow doesn't realize that he actually is the author. Multiple personalities? Sci-fi? I don't know, but if someone wants to use the idea, feel free, I release it to the world.

    (One curious exception - I think The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg would make my list for top ten films ever made.)

    1. Holy shit man, you may be onto something there. That'd actually be a cool idea for a short psychological thriller. Maybe the dude starts stalking himself through his own blog. Ha, shit.

      But really, it is shocking how consistently our tastes align. Awesome and bizarre. Damn, I haven't seen The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg in a long long while. I do remember loving that one though.

    2. On paper, Cherbourg has nothing going for it that should work for me: a 1960s French musical romance. The thing is, it's possibly the best of each of those categories ever made.

      And it's a treatise on the use of color in film. Watch that and Ran, and you're set.

    3. Oh God, Ran. What an experience. Just... wow.

  3. Yeah, that one seriously gets your heart pounding in the big battle scenes!

    AK is my favorite director. Even his "lesser" works are excellent, and his masterpieces are more complex and fascinating than almost anyone else has had the ability to create. Seriously, who else has a body of work consistently in that category? Bergman, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Fellini, Godard... I'd add Malick and Kieslowski if they had produced more work (I REALLY like Kieslowski); they have the same spark.

    I recall a conversation with a friend once about my not going to a lot of movies...

    "Any time I go the theatre, I'm hoping to see Seven Samurai."

    "You must be disappointed a lot."

    "Not really."

    (How we went from an odd horror film to discussing great directors isn't quite clear... but it's fun!)

    1. I LOVE conversations like these! I used to be a movie theater addict. I worked at one for three and a half years, and saw EVERYTHING. Then I watched The Seventh Seal (my first Bergman), and my life was forever changed. I realized that there might be one new movie a year that hits me like many of the older ones do. Two if I'm lucky. So, basically, I go to the theaters a lot less now. I'm more concerned with spending my time watching great movies period. Not all movies for the hell of it.

    2. Absolutely. Some people would rather see one mediocre movie every week; I'd rather see one great movie every year.

      I find myself measuring movies in resistance these days. As in, do I have to resist the urge to hit fast forward?

    3. Haha that's awesome. For me, movies are generally measured by staying power. Am I thinking about it days, weeks, months after seeing it? If so, then it needs to be explored further.