Felicia's Journey (1999)
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What is clear in FELICIA'S JOURNEY is that, for the first part of the movie anyway, Egoyan is clearly more interested in telling the story of Hilditch, the caterer who is more disturbed than meets the eye, than in Felicia, the young woman he befriends. If this were just a movie about Hilditch, maybe that would suffice. But in the novel by William Trevor this is based on, even though Felicia's story is a familiar one(young, somewhat naive girl falls in love with boy her family doesn't approve of, he leaves, she gets pregnant, and tries to find him), her story is of equal importance to the story of Hilditch, and Trevor is interested equally in both of them. The problem is Egoyan seems disconnected to Felicia's story, even though Elaine Cassidy is quite good in the role, so not only does the story go slack there, we start to question, as you didn't in reading the novel, how she could be so naive.
Eventually, though, when Felicia ends up staying with Hilditch and gradually learns about him, the terror of the story, and the fact that, thanks to Egoyan, we're seeing her primarily through Hilditch, makes us care. And, as I said, Cassidy is quite good.
Of course, the movie belongs to Bob Hoskins as Hilditch. Hoskins doesn't make the mistake of coming across as a sneering psychopath. Instead, he trusts us to make our associations from past roles of his(THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY, MONA LISA) to realize there's something bubbling under this mama's boy, and concentrates on playing Hilditch on someone who genuinely believes he's doing good deeds here, and just want to help. It also helps that Arsinee Khanjian, as Egoyan's wife, is quite good, and funny, as the domineering mother; you may never watch cooking shows the same way again.
Egoyan also doesn't make a conventional Hollywood thriller as the movie draws to its conclusion. What he substitutes is something which, admittedly, played out better in the novel because Trevor was able to stretch it out more, but it still chills you to the bone. One may wonder why Egoyan took to a genre piece right after THE SWEET HEREAFTER, but he reworks it into a movie which does resonate.
Felicia, a young Irish girl, is seen arriving in England. She is looking for Johnny Lysaght, her boyfriend, that according to her father, has decided to go to England to join the British army, something her old man holds against him because of a natural dislike for anything from the neighbor country. Felicity defies her father to go looking for Johnny. Fate brings Joe and Felicia together in such a strange way, she will be changed forever.
In flashbacks from the tapes Joe watches, we realize his relation to the television gourmet cooking lady. Not only that, but Joe is also fond of videotaping young women he becomes in contact with. Felicia, who has no clue as to what is going around her, is oblivious to Joe's real intentions. Sadly, the story turns into something one sees coming, hoping Felicia is spared a terrible end.
Atom Egoyan, who adapted the original material, made a wonderful transfer of the novel to the screen. As he accomplished with "The Sweet Hereafter", Mr. Egoyan, shows an affinity to the William Trevor's text in a film that stays in one's memory because of his marvelous take on the characters of the book. He remains true to the original work, expanding it for the big screen in a satisfying film.
Bo Hoskins has one of the opportunities of his career impersonating Joe Hilditch. As a matter of fact, the young actor chosen to impersonate the young Joe, bears an uncanny resemblance with the actor. Elaine Cassidy makes a wonderful Felicia, the young woman that does not have any idea of what she is getting into. Arsenee Khanjian, does a tremendous contribution as Gala, the television master cook whose program has been kept for posterity.
Atom Egoyan, one of the best Canadian filmmakers gets better with every new project he becomes involved in.
The film has the air of confidence from a film maker who has now truly found his rhythm and the ability to bring it to a mass audience. He again starts with a dark theme and manages to keep his world secretive until the final frames keeping the audience riveted. His amazing talent continues with the ability to elicit amazing performances from both established actors like Bob Hoskins and new faces like Elaine Cassidy as well as his ever lovely and talented wife, Arsinee Khanjian.
Hoskins has one of this year's best performances. The chilling Mr. Hildich would have been muddled by a lesser actor, turned into a poor man's Hannibal Lecter. But Hoskins makes the character grow with the film, he only gets more menacing as the film progresses...but never too menacing that you can't feel for him. Cassidy is equally skilled in bringing young Felicia to life. A young woman who is lonely and confused, but determined to see her dreams fulfilled. Also a special mention should be given to Claire Benedict who plays Miss Calligary...a missionary who never quite knows when to quit...even for her own good.
The story does unfold in a series of flashbacks, so those with short attention spans may need to avoid this film. But in doing so, they would rob themselves of an amazing story.
A key element to the film is Mychael Danna's musical score for the film. Music is used much more as a key player in the film than Egoyan has used in the past. It works greatly to his advantage.
This film was the opening night to the 24th Toronto International Film Festival...it was an incredible way to begin the fest. It certainly will be remembered by me for many years to come. Thank you Mr. Egoyan.
The title "Felicia's Journey" already tells something about what to expect from this movie. It tells the story of an Irish girl that is making her way from Ireland to England, to find her boyfriend who moved there to get a job in a lawn-mower factory. On arrival she meets a lonely middle-aged catering manager, called Hilditch, who recommends a boarding room to her. But Hilditch is a bit of a strange man. Even though he seems very nice and polite, he's always alone and seems to spend hours on studying tapes of an eccentric TV chef called Gala. Gradually we learn that the man has a much darker side than what we and Felicia at first assume...
Even though he could easily have made a horror movie out of this subject or perhaps even worse, a TV-movie (it has something to do with having a bad youth, murder,...), Atom Egoyan has made the excellent choice of focusing on the drama and studying the characters with flashbacks. And by only slowly allowing the viewer to get some new information, rather than to give away everything at once, he builds up tension very well. But a good story isn't enough to make a good movie of course, some fine performances by all the actors are needed as well. Despite the fact that I didn't really know Elaine Cassidy (I only saw her play in "The Others" before), I must say that she is a pleasant surprise. She really did a very nice and convincing job with this role. The same can be said about Bob Hoskins. Him I know a lot better, but he too surprised me. He was so good in his role as Hilditch, that it took me quite some time to believe that it was really this man who did those horrible things.
Overall this is a very fine movie with some excellent performances and a very interesting story. I'm convinced that there will be several people who will not like it for several reasons, but personally I liked it a lot. For me it wasn't too slow and I stayed focused from beginning until the end. And as this movie shows, you always have to be patient. Its power doesn't lie in the beginning or in the middle. Only when it is finished, you'll fully understand what has happened. That's why I give this movie a rating in between 7.5/10 and 8/10.
Felicia's Journey adds another notch to a terrific portfolio of films. Yes this film could of trimmed ten minutes from the sagging middle section, and also lost the seemingly tacked-on epilogue.
Those points aside, it's still far superior to practically all other films on offer. Dealing with his familiar pre-occupations with family disfunctionality, sexuality and videotape, Egoyan coaxes Bob Hoskins into the most subtle and mesmeric performance of his career.
Felicia's Journey is quality work for mature audiences.
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 *****
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.
This is really a wonderfully terrifying movie. Bob Hoskins is terrifying, Egoyan is wonderful, Elaine Cassidy is good as the naive Irish girl. If you want a good scare that will stay with you, check out this movie.
Much the same is true of the rest of the movie, with its adroit control of narrative structure, trademark flashbacks aplenty, and its handsome cinematography. (Ironically its saturated colours often make industrial Birmingham look as beautiful in its way as the conventionally picturesque Ireland; I'm not sure if that was the plan.) The music tends to alienate one too: there are some very oddly scored scenes that struck me as over-wrought and intrusive; perhaps they were meant to evoke the disorder inside the mind of Hilditch, but if so I think that was a misjudgment.
So, worth seeing, especially for its often mesmerizing early scenes; it's just a pity that the pay-off doesn't pay (I can't say too much more about why that is without going into spoiler territory, but the problems are with the conception of the Bob Hoskins character). A pity, after Egoyan's fine "The Sweet Hereafter", that the material here just wasn't strong enough.
Felicia, a naive Irish lass, has been abandoned by her boyfriend, Johnny. Pregnant, and with hardly any living relatives, she has absolutely no support from both her father or boyfriend's mother. To track Johnny down, she sets sail across the Irish Sea and travels by land to Birmingham. Johnny has supposedly taken a job there in a lawn mower factory but actually has joined the British army. Felicia is on a wild goose chase in a place that she does not know. She walks ubiquitously; Joe and her paths are meant to intertwine.
As she can get nowhere with her fruitless journey, Felicia turns to Joe for help. After all, not only is he so kindly and understanding, but he also takes the time to listen to her plight. So Felicia accepts rides from Joe, and even stays in his house. Joe really wants to help Felicia, but disturbing flashbacks reveal his dubious intentions even though he wrestles with his past actions.
How will it all pan out? Is the nice criminal any less chilling than the fresh one? No spoiler is given here, although the build-up to the denouement is rather slow. Yet Atom Egoyan's works are always multi-layered and intriguing, and his movies tend to be carefully crafted. Canada's great director pays careful attention to the little details, and he gets excellent performances out of his actors. See this one!
It's a dreary, miserable movie that leaves a bad taste in the mouth. I couldn't get on with Hoskins' awful Burr-ming-gum accent. Can't see any advantage in it being set in the Midland's anyway.
Unresolved threads abound...and I wouldn't normally mind this but half of them make no sense. And what about when Hoskins' says he'll pick Felicia up from outside her B&B although she never told him where exactly she was staying??? Or her buying into the funeral that clearly never took place (and where was she during those days???) Clumbsy and ill-thought through bits of business if you ask me.
It's a thriller without thrills. It's full of pretentious bits of business. It's depressing...
Didn't like it. Thought it was rubbish. Wouldn't recommend it. 'Nuff said.
Anyway, if you're a fan of Bob Hoskins ... maybe ... if you're a fan of Elaine Cassidy ... stronger maybe ... if you answered no to both of those, and you're debating whether to get a jump on your '05 taxes or watch Felicia's Journey, go with the taxes -- it will be time better spent.
This movie was so riveting and engrossing because it kept building up by revealing more about the mysterious main characters. It goes about doing this in a manner that makes the film more interesting by opening up possibilities instead of closing them. As we get more of an idea of who these people are, the tension mounts because we can see the movie is leading to a major disaster, but we aren't sure what and when.
The flashbacks and transitions between the two main characters are so effective. The flashbacks slowly reveal what caused the characters current traumatized state (their main similarity is it's one parent, but they don't know of this similarity), while the transitions emphasize comparisons between the two.
Hoskins performance is really the key because he has most of the lines. He does an exceptional job, changing a little bit with each revelation about his character. By the end of the story, he's nothing like the guy that you thought he was at the very beginning, but the changes are totally credible. Although I mentioned he has most of the lines, the most impressive thing about his performance is the believability of the emotions he's portraying throughout this dialogue because his character is one that generally doesn't say what he's really thinking and feeling. On some occasions, his intense feeling is really obvious. In a lot of others though, it's buried beneath the skin as the point is the topic of conversation or the other persons actions have caused something to stew inside of him but his character is trying his best not to boil over.
Cassidy is highly impressive because she's able to convey the all the emotions without many lines, especially since all her lines are purposely delivered with the same unassuming nature and low key tone. As is one of the trademarks of characters in Egoyan's movies, she also has a dualism in her actions and words where we kind of believe more toward the opposite is actually true. We aren't really sure, but we can see that something is beneath the surface. It's hidden just enough so that the person she's with doesn't see it. Depth, subtlety, and what lies beneath are definitely the strengths of this movie and Egoyan's cinema in general.
The movie really stands out because you could see how easily it would have been another boring and predictable thriller had it been made in Hollywood. Hoskins would have been much more narrowly defined so he could be a clear-cut villain. The narrative would have been dumbed down and told in a more conventional style. The director would feel he had to insert some happy or comical moments that would only water down the intensity and weaken the portrayals of these characters. The temptation to totally leave the psychological level and have Hoskins chase Cassidy around his house with a sharp object at the end would have been too great. Luckily, it wasn't made in the land of the rehash, so it was a somewhat challenging movie that stayed true to its roots from start to finish.
Aside from leaving Canada, I don't see why people think this is so different from Egoyan's other famous films, Exotica & The Sweet Hereafter. The core ideas, style, and presentation are all here. Like those other two, this is an excellent film that's one of the years 10 best. 9/10
is worth owning...I'll be recommending this one to all my friends.
This "Felicia's Journey" is intriguing. It has drama. But it is full of stereo-types!
So it ONLY serves judgemental temperaments without concern for truer justice & fairness & truth, beyond black 'n' white judgements that fit 30-second ads of "NEWS" that dot our multimedia experiences everyday, especially news bulletins, true or misleading in such depictions!
It is SO EXAGGERATED, it reminds me of the fairytale of "Little Red Ridinghood"! Consider the innocent young girl with no identification crossing borders questioned by a guard but freed without any evidence to venture on in search of her 'Romeo' who didn't give her an address VERSUS the pathetically inept lack of substance in the raspy voice of the 'helping hand' befriending her with his unlikely story fabricated by the layer!
It seems to suit the directors & management team that no-one has faith or prays to God, even in their times of desperation!
So in these early settings, it orchestrates & tells much of what is to come! A nightmare journey that betrays the essence of substance without fairytale resolution, without truth or integrity or credibility! ...Then one twist & it's all over. What a disappointment! If you want to see a MUCH superior movie that investigates similar themes with MUCH more credibility, with much more powerful insight, watch the 1983 Paul Cox/Norman Kaye "Man of Flowers" movie!!!
Unlike here, you will NOT be disappointed!
The film is set in a very grim and grey-clouded world where parents systematically abuse, neglect, disown or molest their children, or simply try to control their children like puppets and as a result, they either get killed or become killers. Joe's mother, the French cook, basically failed as a mother by neglecting him and abused him by shoving stuffing in his mouth when he made a mistake while helping her on her TV show. Joe's victims seem to come from all sorts of backgrounds, all with one similarity, they come from a hard family lives. Joe is ultimately a victim like Felicia and all those who have been left to fend for themselves in a harsh and cruel world, which is the sad case of reality in many families around the world.
The director does the right thing in concentrating on the character's emotions rather than pull the same old boring thriller/horror situations you find in so many American movies. Many films rely on the action, rather than the humanity of characters, which is why so many of the films nowadays are unfortunately just plain weak.