Saturday, October 24, 2009

Savage Grace: Grade C

Savage Grace (2007)
Julianne Moore, Stephen Dillane, Barney Clark, Eddie Redmayne; Director Tom Kalin.

If you like sumptuous costumes and sets, this docudrama is for you. The story spans 1946 to 1972, following the wife of an infinitely wealthy European (Brook Baekeland, heir of the inventor of Bakelite, an early form of plastic). Moore is the wife and she swoops around Europe in stunning outfits, visiting stunning villas and stunning restaurants, all lovingly photographed. It is a feast for the eyes.

Moore gives a riveting performance as the wealthy, foul-mouthed, gold-digger wife who married for money and cares nothing for her husband but dotes on her son (Clark and Redmayne). There is no plot. She and her son just appear in various places around Europe acting rich and fabulous, but as they do, we become aware that the relationship between mother and son is disturbingly more than just close, and that she is mentally unstable. In the end, we learn that the son is mentally incompetent too, although there was little forewarning of that fact, a weakness in the narrative. There is no throughput to the narrative however; it is just scene after unconnected scene until the tragic end. Characters are “based on” actual people, but we do not see any psychological development over the 25 year period, so there is nothing there. The residual is Moore’s excellent acting and the stunning photography of the costumes and sets, which is enough to make you sit and enjoy the whole thing.

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