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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>
Felicia's Journey was one of those films that I loved, then hated, then liked, then thought was decent. It was a difficult film to watch because the pacing that Egoyan has implemented is unlike any other film that I have seen. His use of the camera to create that uneasy sensation on screen and while watching the film was very impressive. Hoskins gives the performance of his career as this very controlled man with a very dark secret while Elaine Cassidy impressed me with her simplistic portrayal of Felicia. This was a brilliant film, but there were just some scenes and elements that didn't seem to match the rest of the film. The ending in particular was a bit misleading and at times rushed, but everything building up to that point really hit a strong nerve. If you were to define the word "thriller", I don't think that you could do it without mentioning this film. Brilliant acting, an interesting use of direction (which worked very well), and a story that allowed itself to be build upon during each scene are just a few of the great moments (that overshadow the poor) in this movie.
Felicia's Journey would not have been the powerhouse that it was if it was not for the powerful acting by Bob Hoskins who completely engulfed this character and showed us this rare glimpse of evil humanity. While I am sure that some of it is due in part by Egoyan's direction, but you cannot keep your eyes off Hoskins whenever he is on the screen. He builds his character so well, and bit by bit, that you never can anticipate what will he will say or do next. That is what is brilliant about Hoskins. Normally, when you have a troubled soul like Hilditch you can sometimes guess what he is going to do next. Actors sometimes fall into a pattern of repetition, but with Hoskins it was as if we were watching the final chapter and there were bigger events taking place. He also worked so well with Cassidy that at times I had forgotten that I was watching a film. His ability to be this sinister father figure to this girl was impressive. Hoskins really built this beautiful family dynamic to the film that I never saw coming. Outstanding performances by both that any film connoisseurs should not miss.
Taped onto the vintage acting is this deeply engrossing story that pours from the bottle like some freshly corked wine. The simplicity of the story allows the complexity of the characters emerge and be triumphant. The story gives our characters layers upon which we gradually peel away. Hoskins character especially. From the opening scene until the final, I felt as if I was given the whole course, and not just bits and pieces. While Felicia's name does take the title of this film, it is Hoskins whom this story is really about. We learn more about his life, and his struggles than we do with Felicia. Yet, the story does not stop there. I found it quite interesting that Felicia father caused her conflict, while a matriarchal figure challenged Hilditch's perception. I thought that Egoyan was really trying to do more than tell a serial killer story (as the box may reveal) by giving us these strange and strangled family moments. I felt as if this was more a story about family, then it was about the horrors of humanity or perhaps it was a slice of both. Either way, the story is the foundation to this picture, and for the first time it really worked. So many times we go to the theater expecting to be blown away by a creative and empowering story, but this time it was a polar opposite. The acting is what kept this film high above water, while the story (as simple as it was) only helped build Hoskins and Cassidy further into the world of impressiveness.
Finally, there was Egoyan behind the camera doing what he does best. I have seen only one of his other films, Exotica, and he is notorious for building the suspense from behind the camera as well as in front. His choice of panning in the wrong direction, the colors surrounding our characters and the sound of the film hit our nerves before any actors even walk into the picture. This is all coming from Egoyan's mind, which continues to impress me with each film that I view. I cannot wait to see more of his work and to see how well he has developed with each project. You can definitely see the Hitchcock influence that has been imprinted with Egoyan. I finished watching Frenzy (by Hitchcock) right after this film and the similarities were uncanny. Egoyan reminds me of a cross between Hitchcock and von Trier. His bold style makes each film his own, yet he is not afraid to be brutally honest and attributive to the cultural setting. He is a true filmmaker that needs to continue to prove that you don't need millions to create a masterpiece.
While I have given credit to everyone, and thing, that deserves it in this film, I must finish this review by saying that this film was not perfection on a stick, but very close. There were some unfinished ends that could have been tied better, and the ending just felt as if there was this outside influence at work that Egoyan was battling. Up until the final twenty minutes of this film, I was thoroughly enjoying what I was seeing, but when the idea of religion was brought in from left field, I felt the final moments were rushed and forced. I needed something just as dramatic, just not so random. Also, I needed some form of conclusion to Felicia's actual "journey". Did she find what she was looking for? Overall, I was very impressed with this film.
Grade: **** out of *****
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