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A lonely middle-aged catering manager spends all of his time studying tapes of an eccentric TV chef. Meanwhile, a young woman is making her way from Ireland to find her boy friend, who moved to England to get a job in a lawn-mower factory. On arrival, she makes an early contact with the caterer, who recommends a boarding room to her. Slowly, it is revealed that the caterer has in fact befriended and subsequently abused more than a dozen young women. He, of course, now sets his sights on this woman. Much of the story is told in flashbacks, revealing how each of the characters grew to the point where they now find themselves. However, the drama of the character interaction is more important to director, Atom Egoyan, than the potential horror of the situation. Written by
John Sacksteder <email@example.com>
Angel-faced Elaine Cassidy is suitably innocent as an unwed Irish teen naively searching England for the boyfriend who deserts her, and Bob Hoskins is effectively controlled and creepy as the serial-killing caterer who comes to her "assistance"; but this is a mostly uncomfortable smashing together of coming-of-age drama and "Silence of the Lambs". At times the film has a mesmerizing pull, but director Egoyan too often stalls things with needless flashbacks that provide information the audience has already come to understand, or tries to invest trite scenes with a revelatory significance that just isn't there. It climaxes awkwardly and absurdly with a delirious depiction of two religious crusaders being more monstrous than Hoskins' character himself.
Egoyan labors to establish some pre-conscious link between the girl and the killer, contrasting Hilditch's (Hoskins) warped, twisted innocence with Felicia's pure, unspoiled variety. He just can't quite pull it off though, as there is no escaping the conviction that what Hilditch has been doing (luring unhappy girls into his car, befriending them on videotape, then killing them) is repugnant beyond comprehension. In fact, that is probably the most tired, hoary theme in movies today: that the seemingly cold-blooded killer or assassin or whatever is "just doing his job" or is "really no different than you or me". Oh really? How fascinating.
Despite Egoyan's sumptuous visuals, I found myself focusing on the many plot holes due to his studied (some have found it hypnotic) pacing. How in the world did Hilditch attach a name to a face when it comes to tracking down Felicia's boyfriend? Why doesn't the boyfriend recognize Felicia at the pub? How can Hilditch be sure that Felicia wouldn't suspect him as the person who stole her money? True, she's gullible and trusting but he WAS alone with her bag in the car. There's no way he could've known she'd leave her bag out of sight anywhere else; in fact it's highly unlikely that she would. And why in the world don't the abducted girls he's giving rides to just escape by jumping out of his car? You can clearly see on the videotapes that he's driving slowly in populated areas, and you never see him using a gun. These are the sorts of things that really stand out when the central story isn't quite working.
"Felicia's Journey" certainly isn't a total failure and I admire some of the chances it takes, but ultimately it fails to work because the two approaches are at odds with each other. That is, the microscopically observed psychological "stuff" dehydrates the thriller elements (and at times, the movie is clearly trying to pump up the suspense and WANTS to be a nail-biter) and the thriller elements trivialize the dramatic breakthroughs.
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