Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Deep Blue Sea (2012): A Review


I am someone who admires both Tom Hiddleston and Rachel Weisz.  One is an Academy Award-winning actress, the other has a good shot of winning an Oscar himself and has proven to be an actor of remarkable range.  This is why I went into The Deep Blue Sea with great expectations.  However, as the film progress I saw that despite its pedigree and its naked ambitions (in one scene, literally naked), The Deep Blue Sea ended up being nothing more than one slog of a dull film. 

It is 1950, right after the Second World War.  Hester (Weisz) attempts suicide.  Over the course of The Deep Blue Sea, we jump from that suicide attempt and the days and weeks after to the past, where she began an affair with dashing and immature RAF pilot Freddie (Hiddleston).  She leaves her much older husband Sir William (Simon Russell Beale) to embark on this passionate affair, but eventually the subterfuge of Freddie and Hester pretending to be married themselves, along with Freddie's general immaturity, have her attempt to take her own life.  Freddie comes back, thinking it was because he forget her birthday, while Sir William, still in love with her, continues to seek her out.

I think The Deep Blue Sea ends on an uncertain note, as she continues to struggle between the reliable William and the passionate Freddie (the Devil and the deep blue sea).  I can't vouch for that since I was falling asleep during the film and finding it harder and harder to stay awake given I had all but lost interest.

I think that the problem with writer/director Terence Davies' adaptation of the Terence Rattigan play is two-fold: one is that there is simply too much artifice in the film.  It tries too hard to be artistic, to be so grand that instead it comes across as stiff and dull.  Everyone behaves as though their lives are these deep dramas of misery.  Rather than appear to be human, they all fall into a tired cliche: speaking softly is mistaken as speaking deep thoughts.  How often have I said that whispers are not esoteric dialogue.  In The Deep Blue Sea, we have all that coming from all the characters.

In fact, there is a lot of pseudo-artsy work in The Deep Blue Sea.  Never was a romp so lushly and artistically photographed as Freddie and Hester's first sexual encounter, with the camera spinning overhead as it lavished attention on their naked bodies while the overly-romantic music overpowers our lovers. 

I take back slightly what I said about everyone whispering.  Yes, there was a lot of hushed dialogue, but there was some shouting (primarily from Freddie).  Curiously enough, that leads to the second issue with The Deep Blue Sea.

The other problem is that the jumping from her past to the present to the future (?) was so disorganized one wasn't quite sure where one was.   We go from her appearing to be married to Freddie to Sir William refusing to divorce her to the early days of Freddie and Hester's romance.  It all is a bit perplexing wondering not so much what is going on but when it is going on.  It does at times feel like the story is jumping from past to present without a firm grasp of exactly when it takes place.

Certain things are always a puzzle, such as WHY Sir William's mother (who looks old enough to be his wife) is so bitchy to her daughter-in-law.  Is it suspicion that she's not good enough for her little boy?  Does she suspect Hester is up to some hanky-panky?  Is it because it's in the script?  Further, why does Sir William not take any steps to protect his wife from Mommie Dearest's abuse?

A side note: when watching the first scene with the Collyers, the first thought I had was, 'Good God, his mother is STILL alive?'

There are little hints here and there about the motivations and troubles each character has: Freddie's ever-cheerful demeanor hides a ttroubled veteran, Sir William's stoicism supresses a romantic longing, but by and large we never get an exploration as to what drives everyone to do what they do.

This is especially the case with Hester.  Weisz is so flat and dull one wonders why these two men would fight for her (apart from good sex).  Even worse, The Deep Blue Sea echoes Anna Karenina in the worst way: in a scene Hester appears close to throwing herself onto the Underground train (and frankly, I almost wanted her to throw herself and end the film).  Instead, we flash back to the Blitz, where she was with Sir WIlliam.  That's nice, but it adds very little to the overall story.

My biggest beef with The Deep Blue Sea is that one could see that everyone was trying to act.  None of the three appeared to be real people.  They appeared to behave as though they were rehearsing but hadn't been told that the cameras were rolling.    It all goes back to the stiff manner in which Davies directed them.  God Bless Hiddleston, Weisz and Beale: they gave it their best shot, but with neither a script or direction to guide them, they were left to their own devices and hope for the best.

The Deep Blue Sea tries, very hard, to be romantic and sweeping.  However, the end results are slow, dull, and uninteresting.  This sea is all drained of interest.       


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