Friday, July 20, 2007

Wait Until Dark (1967)

[Requested by Jenny Sekwa.]

Or, a climax in search of a film. The last twenty minutes or so of this famed thriller are as fine as anything in the genre, with maybe the best jump scare ever. Plus there's Alan Arkin turning in a strikingly hammy performance as a psycho terrorizing poor blind Audrey Hepburn. However, Hepburn's performance, Oscar-nominated as it is, is wholly uneven -- she swings between believable (i.e. her scenes with Richard Crenna) and stilted. The latter adjective particularly describes much of her work in the film's first half-hour, as she tries to waver between happy, frightened, confident and annoyed, occasionally within the space of a couple lines of dialogue. The overwritten, archly theatrical dialogue she's given doesn't help either -- very few people could deliver, "I'll be the one reading Peter Rabbit in Braille," and have it sound like something a human being could conceivably say. The plot is sharp from a tension-building standpoint but is full of contrivances; I know most thrillers are on some level contrived, but the test of quality is how well the plot convinces me to overlook these stretches, and here I was never convinced. As Roger Ebert pointed out upon the film's initial release, the whole film would have been nullified if only Hepburn had locked her goddamn door. Wait Until Dark is never particularly bad -- it's well-constructed from a technical standpoint, and it leads into a fabulous cat-and-mouse ending, but that doesn't excuse its hackneyed nature. It is, at bottom, sharply made dross.

Grade: C+


Anonymous No More Caffeine For Jenny said...

Best jump scare ever. I'll say!

I asked you to view this? I must have just rewatched this recently and thought you might like it.

I think I watched Wait Until Dark in my high school film appreciation class. I think it's ALL about the last 20 minutes, which is why I'd make a horrible film critic. I sometimes find myself "loving" a movie based on certain scenes, versus the movie as a whole.

Then again, you gave The Wicker Man a higher grade, and NOTHING with Alan Arkin in it could be worse than that piece of dreck.

In other movie news, was anyone else as horribly disappointed as I in "Evening"? One of the most stellar female lineups in recent memory and the film falls flatter than a pancake. Toni Collette needs to stop accepting "woeful sister" roles ASAP. And bloody hell, if Mamie Gummer wasn't Meryl Streep's daughter, who would be making such a fuss about her?

Glenn Close? Why bother? I know a story is not so fascinating when I'm sitting in the movie theater and the most interesting aspect of the movie is me breaking down the Streep/Redgrave family dynamics (both onscreen and in real life) for the philistine to my left (DURING THE DAMN MOVIE) AND TO MY HORROR, HE'S NOT IMPRESSED OR GRATEFUL FOR THE INSIGHTFUL NUGGETS. No sexy time for him tonight!

I figure the Patrick Wilson factor alone will automatically kill it for you! If you didn't like him before, Wilson's role in Evening surely won't endear you to him.


4:04 PM  

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