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That of a Mother
Joseph Belanger30 July 2008
When I was growing up, my mother could be a little over involved in my life but she's got nothing on Barbara Baekeland (Julianne Moore). SAVAGE GRACE tells Barbara's story and that of her incalculable influence on the direction of her very tight family. Together, Barbara, Brooks (Stephen Dillane) and Tony (Barney Clark as a boy, Eddie Redmayne as an adult), exist in a tiny bubble where they can be seen by and perform for the rest of the world but ultimately exist solely for each other. Rich beyond their own comprehension, the Baekeland's exude an air of arrogance and thrive on the act of acting. And even though, as the years pass on, the friends, acquaintances and passersby will have run far away, the Baekeland's still have us.

The Baekeland's come from money. Well, at least Brooks does. His father was the inventor of Bakelite, a popular plastic. Barbara, a former model and almost famous actress, married into the fortune and it suited her just fine to do nothing but be seen. With no real drama to occupy their time, the Baekeland's must create their own and they become experts in the craft. And like the entirely selfish parents they are, they teach their young son, Tony, everything they know. First time feature filmmaker and brave soul, Tom Kalin, tells their revolting yet tragic story in a manner that neither glorifies nor condemns their demented ways. All the while though, he centers his attention on Tony so that we never forget who the real victim is. This makes it all the more deplorable when Tony abandons reason to embrace his family heritage.

SAVAGE GRACE is not for all. Make no mistake, when I say that the Baekeland's ruin each other and bring about all of their own misfortune, I am not speaking lightly. This is a family that shares baths, beds and lovers. Kalin is mindful of his audience's likely discomfort but also never afraid to show that audience the dirty details. Besides, when all the debauchery becomes too much to handle, one can always look to Moore and bask in her brilliance. Moore is flippant one moment and affected the next. Her performance is so delicately balanced between calculated control and callous chaos that one never knows which way she'll turn and one is always shocked to find out. Both Dillane (who is practically unrecognizable) and Redmayne (who could so easily be related to Moore in reality with his pale, freckled skin) do more than simply hold their own. They complete the trio and it is a delight to watch them play off of each other, albeit a disturbing delight.

Kalin has not only crafted an engaging film but also a bizarre experience. If you can stomach this true story, then you will be treated to a frankness that is not common in American cinema. You will also get to spend time in dark places you may not be accustomed to. However, when you inevitably arrive safely on the other side, you will know the drastic differences in what it means to be fortunate.
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Shocking, slow, sick...but
merylmatt19 August 2010
The idle rich are boring, which is why the movie is paced so slowly. The subject matter, based on truth is shocking because it is real and sick. You can see where this is going early on, but somehow, it's like a car accident. You don't want to watch but you do? Those of us who don't have money would like to think money cures problems, but as this material shows, if you're sick, you're sick. I thought the actors did a good job portraying their characters. When these things happen to ordinary people, they're statistics. When they happen to rich people, they become the material for books and movies.

Very dark subject matter, played out very frankly, which makes this all the more disturbing.
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A mesmerizing and powerful experience
Howard Schumann25 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Loosely based on the book of the same name by Natalie Robins and Steven M.L. Aronson, Tom Kalin's Savage Grace is the stylized depiction of the life of Barbara Daly Baekeland (Julianne Moore), a social-climbing model and would-be actress who married into the Bakelite fortune and whose overbearing love for her son Tony, a promising writer, led to unspeakable tragedy. Savage Grace first premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007 and had a limited release in the U.S. in May 2008 to less than enthusiastic reviews. The film has been described as dull by some critics used to bathing in showy Hollywood effects, overlooking the fact that its languid air and dreamy look serve a distinct purpose - to underscore the characters' emotional emptiness and enhance its understated cumulative power.

Savage Grace opens in New York in 1946 with the birth of a son and unfolds like a classical tragedy in six episodes that cover four decades from 1946 to 1972, tracking Barbara's crumbling relationship with husband Brooks (Stephen Dillane) and her increasingly unhealthy relationship with her son Tony, played as a boy by Barney Clark and as an adult by the excellent Eddie Redmayne. The family, heirs to the fortune amassed by their grandfather Leo who was the inventor of Bakelite, the original plastic, eats at the famous Stork Club, dining with princes and other royalty and socializing with people such as Greta Garbo, Tennessee Williams, and the Aga Khan. In the restaurant, they play careless games such as Barbara asking her guests to bet on her just going off with the first man that comes along in a car," which she does, leaving her husband and friends on the sidewalk.

The film then jumps to Paris in 1959. In one of the most explosive scenes, Barbara compels Tony, now age 13, to read aloud from the book "Justine" by the Marquis de Sade at a dinner party. When he is reluctant, Barbara goes into a rage, using graphic epithets that drive her visitors from the house. London, Spain, and Mallorca follow soon as the Baekeland's become permanent exiles from the U.S. In Cadaques on Spain's Costa Brava eight years later, Tony begins to come to grips with his homosexuality and enjoys an affair with Jake (Unax Ugalde), at times the two performing their sexual acts in front of "mummy". Later he brings home a girlfriend Blanca (Elena Anaya), which surprises his parents since his homosexuality has become obvious.

Coldly rejecting both Barbara and Tony, Brooks runs off with Blanca and never looks back, resisting his son's futile efforts to reunite them. In a startling confrontation, Barbara follows her husband to the airport where she unleashes a brutal verbal attack on both husband and girlfriend at the checkout counter. Both Barbara's and Tony's emotional stability soon begin to unravel. Barbara takes up with the bisexual Sam (Hugh Dancy) and, when Tony also finds himself attracted to Sam, all three end up in bed in one of the film's more eyebrow-raising scenes. Back in London, years later, after one of numerous suicide attempts, Barbara casually initiates a sexual relationship with her increasing emotionally unstable son leading to the boy's quiet descent into madness and the film's tragic conclusion.

Like Jean-Claude Lauzon's 1992 masterpiece, Leolo, Savage Grace is a mixture of darkness and light that contains moments of humor and warmth along with moments of sheer depravity. Its power is very real because the characters are recognizable as suffering human beings rather than as caricatures. While the appeal of Savage Grace is limited because of its dark subject matter, it is a mesmerizing and powerful experience, impeccably acted by Julianne Moore in one of her greatest performances. While the film's depictions of forbidden sexual activities may or may not have occurred in reality, they are powerfully communicated without melodrama and the film's morbid fascination is maintained until its shocking conclusion.
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Truly cringe worthy
HardCandyJane18 August 2009
A movie so disturbing that it can only be based on a true story. And, if you go into the movie not realizing it is a true story (like I did) you will get the shock of your life when you reach the final credits!

This movie rockets through an incredible number of heavy issues at a breath taking pace, while treating the audience with respect by not making all issues blatantly obvious and forcing the audience to put some of the puzzle together.

It explores a dangerously codependent relationship between mother and son. Their relationship is truly cringe worthy and disturbingly fascinating. No yawn moments here.
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Chilling story
Paul Martin27 July 2007
Having seen quite a few films produced by Christine Vachon, I recognised a similar aesthetic in this film. Vachon's films often portray unconventional sexuality or other challenging social themes, but in a stylised way that is more accessible to wider audiences than grittier art-house films. This film would make a terrific companion piece to Christophe Honoré's Ma mère, as it tackles similarly challenging themes, though it is based on a true story and is much more digestible for audiences. The parallels between these stories are remarkable.

Julianne Moore is an actress I admire and takes top billing. Her performance was as good as usual, portraying Barbara Daly Baekeland, wife of the Bakelite heir. Eddie Redmayne's portrayal of her homosexual son was for me the stand-out performance. The film is set in various countries - the US, France, Spain and England - and the visuals are excellent. It takes a while to get a handle on where the film wants to take us, but it culminates in a chilling end. Worth seeing for the brave risks it takes and succeeds in delivering.

The Melbourne International Film Festival screening I attended was introduced by the director, Tom Kalin.
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Quite good, actually
jackojacko31 March 2008
The film is different. It does stand out amongst hundreds of "seen-this-before" flicks.

Juliane Moore is great, of course.

One of her best performances, actually.

The film has the atmosphere that is hard to find these days; moves kind of slowly but the tension continually grows so you know something (bad) is going to happen eventually although you have no idea what.

Cannot understand certain opinions here which, I have a feeling, have been written without even watching the film or, simply, for some unknown reasons, out of spite.

See it. It is really good.
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Money Can't Buy Happiness
Lechuguilla5 March 2010
None of these rich, idle people induce much empathy. Self-absorbed and shallow, the father Brooks (Stephen Dillane), the son Antony (Eddie Redmayne), and the mother Barbara (Julianne Moore) go about their lives with nary a care in the world. Yet, they manage to inflict unhappiness on each other in ways that test the limits of family love.

Complex human relationships with a tendency toward destructive behavior form the premise of "Savage Grace", a true-life story of the Baekeland family, heir to the Bakelite plastic fortune. The film's plot begins in 1946 when Antony is a baby. The plot ends with the shocking climax, in 1972.

Curiously aloof and standoffish, the film suffers from an unfortunate structure. Snippets of their family life allow us to peek in at odd moments between 1946 and 1972. We see them as they jet-set their way through Spain, Italy, and France, and hobnob with the rich and famous. At one point, Barbara, a socialite and former model, concedes a sense of apathy and boredom. "To say that one is tired of Paris is in fact to say that one is tired of life".

But because the plot spans 26 years, viewers must fill in the story gaps as best they can. Though I'm not one for lots of exposition, some added dialogue could have helped the narrative to flow better. As is, the story comes across as disjointed and at times confusing. Viewers must exercise patience to see where this slow, meandering story is leading.

The film's technical elements, including acting, are fine. The main problem is the script, and in particular the plot structure. Still, the film instructs us on how life can disintegrate for people with too much time on their hands and no sense of responsibility. That money can't buy happiness may be a cliché, but this story affirms it, at least for one very dysfunctional family that thought that it could.
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Dark tale of a mother and son doesn't really connect with its audience
dbborroughs26 May 2008
Story of Barbara Daly Baekeland, who married the heir to the Bakelite fortune. We watch as the relationship with her husband slides, the relationship with her son (who narrates) goes weird and everything collides in tragedy.

This is a dark little movie. Almost from the first frames the whole world seems wrong and off. The interaction between Barbara and her husband now that they have a son is at best awkward, at worst strained. Its clear from the start that Mom is paying way too much attention to her baby. Its unnerving. Whats also clear up front is that no one is "normal". Everyone is clearly in their own little damaged world (Dad travels, mom is isolated and the kid just tries to cope with all of the weirdness). As a means to an effect, namely making the audience feeling uneasy, it works in spades. As a means of making a film that is something that we can either relate to or want to watch for any reason other than it intrigues our baser instincts its not really the way to go. Forgive me, but I don't know why I was watching this, I mean let me put it simply, these people are nuts. These are rich people who are just strange.

Its doesn't help that the performances seem very mannered. All of the actors are very good but I felt as though I was watching a very very British mannered drama.The characters seem to be more a collection of ticks and manners then anything else. Yes I understand that everyone is wrapped up in themselves; behavior thats so guarded that each act (especially sex)seems to be for some ulterior reason, and that any unmannered act is one of self revelation, but at the same time it kept me distant. I never cared about anyone or anything, I only wanted to see how twisted this all got(And it gets pretty funky).

Is it any good? Yea, he says begrudgingly. The performances are good, especially Juliane Moore, the film is extremely well crafted and as much as I bitch, it does hold your attention in the same way that a bloody car wreck does (you keep watching to see how bad it gets because you know it has nothing to do with you). I wish it was just slightly better than it is, I wish there was some sign of what life was before the baby came along, I mean why did her husband marry her, I have no clue, nor do I know why he bothered to stay married to her as long as he did. I also wish this was about real people, instead of "martians", I mean most of the characters outside of the central ones seem reasonably normal, I cared more about them then the ones the film was about.

Is it worth seeing? I don't know if I would go out of my way to see it. Frankly the chance to see this kind of fell into my lap so I took it, especially since a friend had asked about the film at the instant the chance to see the film arrived. Would I have wanted to pay for it? In the end no, I want to get some thing else from the film then just feeling dirty.
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samoozles5 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this film without knowing anything about it, so after the events of the film unfolded I was shocked to learn that they were based on real events. The character of Tony reminded me a bit of Sebastian from Cruel Intentions as he was a well spoken, high brow, pretentious sort of fellow. He was not very likable but the film did incite sympathy for his situation. The film chronicles his life and the series of events that most likely contributed to his mental instability and I feel like he was merely an instrument for those around him to use as they desired. Barbara was an abhorrent woman but very well acted by Jullianne Moore. The film is aesthetically very compelling - a series of lustrous backdrops with a patina of age and degradation, which perhaps could be interpreted as some sort of metaphor I am sure. I wouldn't watch it again because I found it quite disturbing and harrowing but I can see the appeal in this film and would recommend it to someone who enjoyed watching a film like the Virgin Suicides.
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A Lost Dog Collar: Impact and Consequences
gradyharp29 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
SAVING GRACE is screenwriter Howard A. Rodman's adaptation of Natalie Robins and Steven M.L. Aronson's brutally realistic book by the same name of a famous wealthy family's downfall. Director Tom Kalin has previously proved that he can successfully mix biopic with drama ('Swoon'), but alas in this tedious film he fails to make the audience care about any of his characters, despite the fact that he cast this strange collection of edgy types with outstanding actors. In the end, after witnessing an incestuous relationship between mother and son and a subsequent brutal murder, the only moment of tenderness is a very lost boy's need to recover the collar of his childhood dog, long dead but hardly forgotten in the murky soup that has been his life.

Knowing that the story is true adds a bit of intrigue: the family of a plastics mogul is in the third generation: Brooks Baeklande (Stephen Dillane) wallows in his wealth without positively contributing to his family reputation; his wife Barbara (Julianne Moor), a former actress and Feline's salesgirl who marries into wealth only to become obsessed with climbing a ladder that repeatedly betrays her 'class'; their only son Antony (Eddie Redmayne) who moves from his mother's worshiped idol to his father's loathed rival at his being bisexual/gay to a series of affairs - none of which he finds satisfying or fulfilling, especially his ultimate incestuous relationship with his mother. The film runs from 1946 (Antony's birth) to 1972 and the tragic finale and during this time the audience is conducted through the superficial corridors of life among the wealthy and influential people of New York, Paris, London, Cadaques. Along the way we meet some interesting characters, paramours of Antony played by Elena Anaya, the gifted actors Unax Ugalde and Hugh Dancy, and a host of other bit parts who enliven the action or act as stimuli for the crumbling downfall of Barbara Baekeland.

The various periods of time are well captured by cinematographer Juan Miguel Azpiroz who manages to give us the 'superficial beauty' of these empty souls while keeping a safe distance from their degrading antics. The musical score by Fernando Velázquez is always too loud and falls between the cracks of elevator Muzak and takeoffs on Wagner's leitmotifs from 'Tristan und Isolde'.

The major problem with this film is that it is nearly impossible for us to emotionally invest in any of the characters, even as well defined as they are in the hands of such excellent actors. It is this distance that sinks the film, a 'biopic' about rather distasteful folks that offers little insight into the positive aspects of their deranged behavior. Or perhaps that void is what Tom Kalin is striving to depict. It just misses. Grady Harp
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A provocative film just for the sake of being provocative
Gordon-116 April 2008
This film is about a rich but dysfunctional family trying to hang on to each other, ultimately destroying everyone's happiness.

I saw this film only because Julianne Moore is in it. Moore is a fine actress who starred in a lot of high quality films. I was hoping "Savage Grace" would be as good as her other films, but I was disappointed.

I find the story slow and poorly developed. Mr & Mrs Baekeland's poor relationship is satisfactorily portrayed, but from this point onwards the film goes downhill. Things happen without buildup and are poorly explained. The final ending is simply ridiculous, as the unexpected twist on Tony's mental state feels very contrived and unconvincing.

"Savage Grace" could have been a thought provoking and engaging drama. Instead, it fails to be engaging, and the characters not sympathetic. In my opinion, the story unfolds provocatively just for the sake of being provocative.
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Just one word: beautiful !
rital0622 May 2007
Seen at the last Cannes Film Festival in the Directors' Forthnight selection. More than 15 minutes of applause followed the screening, in the presence of the director (Tom Kalin) and the main character (Julian Moore). Julian is excellent in characterizing Mrs Baekland (wife of Brooks Baekeland, the nephew of the inventor of Bakelite) throughout the lifetime of her child. The costumes, haircuts, settings are just perfect. This real story is told with a lot of respect and even if the subject is rather extreme it is presented in a very fair way. The selection of the locations is also excellent and ranges between half of Europe. Well done Tom ! Definitely worth the waiting.

Cheers, Rital
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Strangely Unaffecting
mocpacific19 June 2008
I'm a fan of "Swoon" I loved the semi documentary approach at another, true, high society horror story. In "Swoon" the distance the director took from his subject helped us to understand and to involve ourselves in the twisted mind of the protagonists. In "Savage Grace" it works the opposite way. I needed to be closer I needed to be taken step by step in any way you want it but step by step. The shrill performance by Julianne Moore didn't give me and 8th of what Judy Davis gave me in "A Little Thing called Murder" Here you're on your own. No sense of period or class no dramatic structure and feeble performances. What a pity. I had waited for this film with feverish anticipation.
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Thoughtful, but not touching examination of Barbara Baekeland's murder.
Beginthebeguine3 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It is hard to understand the fancies of the elite nomadic American rich without first realizing that they are inheritors of a much lower class and always looking to the European aristocrats for guidance. Brook Baekeland is such a man, who's grandfather Leo invented the first synthesized plastic. His grandfather was a common man but his own father lost himself to social climbing and has left Brook a certain amount of disdain for the aristocracy. This disdain leads Brook to join the army, and seek out exploration in third world locations, perhaps to leave a similar mark as his grandfather did. He draws further away from his wife Barbara who lives for the very social world he has come to deplore.

Barbara also has a touch of disdain for the aristocrats for in one moment she shows a great wit and the next lashes out at the very people she longs to impress. I know that some have commented that she is overtly sexual, but I think the sex here is more of a response. Perhaps, she has begun to hate herself and throughout the movie more and more so till she destroys everything.

Tony, her bisexual son is in the middle of all this. He is the appeaser, the father, the mother and the one afflicted by all those around him. Slowly, he descends into schizophrenia and after participating in a sexual relationship with his mother he kills her and then orders Chinese take out.

There isn't a complete story here in this film. The screenplay has massive holes in it but the rhythm of the film moves along at an even pace. It is well shot and the scenery is pleasant. There was great pains taken to not make the sex scene between Barbara and Tony more uncomfortable then it was and the steady ticking of the clock from the mantel was a good touch. This is a hard story to tell and from a regular persons frame of mind impossible to make the characters sympathetic. The director had great courage to take on such a story and was lucky to have Julianne Moore who did a splendid job rushing from one emotion to the next. The supporting cast was excellent, as was the lighting. I might have seen a Ipod in 1969 France sitting on a wall around their house, but perhaps not.
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Oedipus complex or something far more complex?
Arcadio Bolanos10 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Tom Kalin's film is not a simple story about classical Oedipus complex. Sure, the symbolic death of the father might be found as well as a very literal carnal commerce with the mother. Savage Grace is mainly a story about a boy growing up and struggling with his existential dilemmas and dealing with that to which Jacques Lacan or Zizek would refer as "the real" in opposition to "reality". Here reality is that of a wealthy family with a life full of luxuries and eccentricities. But that's reality. The symbolic order. Beneath all that there is an excess, something that can be neither subdued nor fully explained.

Lacan also said that desire would be connected with the real. And thus when desire conquers everything, the ugly truth shows up in the surface. But I won't spoil the grim finale even to those who might have heard about the real case that inspired this story.

It's interesting, however, to observe that young Baekeland is in-between-places. His sexuality seems to surmount the models Lacan would include in his orthodox sexuation graphic. He has homosexual encounters at a very early age and then later on. But that does not seem to seclude him from other experiences (namely the incestuous aspect of the relationship with his mother).

I would say that the ultimate failure comes from his inability to articulate his desire. And this inability will lead him to act against his own interests in a most nefarious way.
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Sickly Intriguing
ozlock6 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Best: Julianne Moore. She and her movie son dominate the action. I watched it during a sleepless night on Sundance Channel. Otherwise I wouldn't have bothered. It is fraught with tension, and it culminates as one might suspect as mentioned below.

The description contained cautions such as "depravity" and "incest." That should get the message across. The acting was superior and it has a curiosity factor because it is apparently based on real characters. But even if you are not a prude one might get a slightly slimy feeling from the entire film.

Another curiosity is that I have been unable to find any mainstream reviews of the movie, not Ebert, not Rotten Tomatoes.
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Don't be afraid, it's human(e)
Comandante66628 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The most disturbing fact about this movie is that it is actually based on a true story. Though it appears to be pretty well known at least in the US I so far haven't had heard of it. Thus it probably struck me twice as hard.

The subject though is familiar and reminds of ancient Greek tragedian Sophocles and his famous play 'Oedipus Rex'. But this is only a very basic resemblance. The story which evolves in several steps around the life of Tony Baekland is set in several countries of Europe between 1946 and 1972.

The environment in which Tony grows up is a very wealthy American bourgeois family which seems to exist pretty independent of much of the outer worlds developments. At one point in the movie Tony reads a statement by his famous grandfather which I'd like to cite from my memory: 'Money allows you to not have to live with the consequences of your mistakes.' Although Tony in the movie doesn't seem very content with the meaning, I guess it summarizes the behavior of the characters very well. They are revolving around themselves and soon the ultimate catastrophe begins.

Tony discovers his homosexuality at a very early stage and is thereupon loosing his connection to his father, Brooks, whom he already had described as being cold and dark, at the very beginning of the movie. Eventually Brooks takes off with Tonys first girlfriend and from now on he is mostly seen only from the distance. Tonys relationship with his mother in contrast is exceptionally close and shows no apparent privacy of either of the two characters. It develops to a full incestuous act at the end of the movie that finally also leads to matricide and the arrest of Tony.

It is very hard to describe this film other than as irritating. But it never goes so far as to repel the viewer. Though it may not be sympathy you feel for the characters it might very well be empathy or at least pity. They are very well described in their perfectness and simultaneous vulnerability and resourcefully embodied by the outstanding performances of the main actors.

Apart of the dramatic content, the movie also captivates because of its beautiful costumes and requisites. I hardly like movies just because of their visual impression. But this one I must say was absolutely impressive in this case. I was stunned by only watching the set and the beautiful people moving around there. It somehow reminded my of the film version of 'Death in Venice'. Don't ask me why, it's just a feeling...

Anyways 'Savage Grace' is a very recommendable movie and I was glad I had the opportunity to watch it yesterday. The director Tom Kalín was present and was kind enough to answer some questions. Thank you Tom, for a very decent movie about very indecent people.
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PsychoMichael44827 May 2008
The film has received much criticism for its "slow and episodic" pace, "bad" acting, and controversial elements. I will agree with the controversial aspects. This is not a film that cookie cutters will appreciate. They will be disgusted and more than likely bored out of there mind. I on the other hand come from a very dysfunctional family(not as dysfunctional), and at times related to certain characters. TO me the film was very direct in its approach and honestly quite tasteful for the subject matter. The pacing was as it should be. It was gradual not slow, it helped to build the tension. As for it being episodic, it is because the son is telling the story through his letters and journals. As for the acting I found it to be quite good with the exception of the son. I found his performance at times too emotionless. Julianne Moore more than makes up for it with her performance. She is a powerhouse. Brilliant Oscar worthy performance. The final scenes which I have heard are anticlimactic, in my opinion were refreshingly realistic and not overly dramatic.

So bottom line well-done film with an amazing performance by Julianne Moore, but could've been better with a more personal performance by the son

******* out of **********
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Chris Knipp5 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Sometimes reality is not so much stranger than fiction as it is tackier and more like a TV-serial melodrama. That's the somewhat dubious truth suggested by Tom Kalin's polished but limp film now in release about a plastic heir's "tragic" matricide in London in 1972, 'Savage Grace.'

Adultery, incest, vulgar language--if you're rich enough, or the movie they happen in is glossy enough, are these things all pretty much on a par? Again, this makes you wonder. As in a TV serial, 'Savage Grace' shocks viewers indiscriminately on many levels, sets and costumes remaining impeccable, so we'll stay tuned, and if not care, at least feel titillated. When you see in the last few scenes what Barbara, the mother, does to Tony, the son, and what Tony then does to Barbara, you'll probably react, if only by looking away. But acts performed out of boredom on screen may induce the same feeling in viewers, and other more specific emotions are too little in evidence here. Though Tony was judged to have committed his crime in a state of "diminished capacity," his character is more the victim of diminished development, his derangement less fully illustrated than his taste in bespoke tailoring. His father Brooks (Stephen Dellane) is clearly frustrated with his own lack of motivation and his mother Barbara (Julienne Moore) is a pretentious arriviste who used to be a clerk at Filene's department store. But the way they talk is generic. They remain nice-looking--very nice-looking--actors in beautiful costumes. They never quite develop into real people.

Tony Baekeland (Eddie Redmayne, an Old Etonian, in anther evil preppy role) is the young decadent great-grandson of Leo Baekeland, whose ur-plastic Bakelite in its heyday was used for everything from atomic bomb casings to Chanel jewelry. Each successive generation after the fortune was made is, predictably, successively idler and more spoiled. Tony, whom we first see in 1946 as a sweet-tempered babe, grows up watching his parents, who are appropriately idle and spoiled--but, alas, not much else--fight and fight and then divorce. When Tony turns out to like boys, his father runs off with his (Tony's) beautiful Spanish girlfriend, Blanca (Elena Anaya), and his mother (Moore looking younger and changing hair color as the decades roll by) beds her gay escort Sam (Hugh Dancy), who's already been with Tony. Things are a bit complicated--but in a way not, since it all happens in a bubble of wealth in New York, Paris, Mallorca, and London where everything is easy, baths are leisurely, and no one's badly groomed. I longed for the hand of Patricia Highsmith, and maybe Philip Seymour Hoffman to give things an edge, to show life's messy even when you're loaded.

The movie reproduces the Forties, Fifties, Sixties and early Seventies as movies do, with clothes and hairstyles. It's hard to believe Barbara would publicly use language quite this vile with Brooks in any of these decades. The writers seem to forget that certain words were not used by polite women till at least the mid-Sixties. Assuming Barbara did address Brooks this way, it's hard to believe he'd have kept her on as long as he did, since he doesn't seem to be under any external pressure to do so. She, evidently, is deranged, but it's not clear why. Certainly little details seem wrong. Barbara's' mispronunciation of various foreign languages is right for a rich expatriate no doubt, but would the young Tony (Barney Clark) not know how to pronounce "école bilingue" if he's studying in one? Living all his life abroad, would he speak such perfect American?

Everything happens, and yet nothing happens. When Tony commits his crime and his voice-over says a great burden has been lifted I hoped Eddie Redmayne would drop his too-perfect American accent, though of course he never does. Redmayne is a coolly controlled actor, a master of the art of seeming to hide emotion; but after doing several upper-crust wrongdoers, maybe he deserves a different kind of role, hopefully in a better movie. Dillane, Dancy, and above all Julienne Moore as the enveloping Mummy and verbally abusive wife, all help give this glossy tripe more finish than the daytime soaps. It's like some downgraded form of Masterpiece Theater, or Ismail Merchant without Ismael or Merchant. But it's still tripe. Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

This doesn't come remotely close to 'Reversal of Fortune,' Barbet Schroeder's nuanced and engrossing study of posh wrongdoing. Something may have been lost from the Tony Baekeland story told in Natalie Robins and Steven M. L. Aronson's eponymous book when it got filtered through Howard A. Rodman's adaptation. Best known for his 1992 'Swoon' about the Leopold and Loeb murders, Kalin reveals an unhealthy taste for gay and lurid true-life stories. His plastic hasn't the resilience of real Bakelite.
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Vastly overrated, hugely disappointing
fluffyrona29 October 2007
Having read the other comments on this forum, I went to the London Film Festival yesterday full of anticipation, and was rudely and thoroughly disappointed by a film full of plot holes, pretentious twaddle and dreadful gaps where nothing happened.

Julianne Moore is the only guiding light in a sea of dark and dreadful film-making - I wasn't the only one to think this, as a very famous RSC actor who was sitting in front of me walked out after an hour. Simply dreadful, and if people think that producing pretty screen shots can compensate for a film that makes no sense and is without any meaningful script, then it's a real case of the Emperor's New Clothes.

After 15 years in creation, as the producer wanted us to believe in the pre-screening commentary, it's a shame they didn't take time to give this film more pace and more purpose. A really dreadful film.
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Did I really just watch that?
Mack Hamilton26 January 2008
I saw the film last night, I was not appalled by the content like some others, but I felt that the film was delivered in such a way that it was impossible to be moved by its story. The single greatest contributor to this was the films out-of-place score. The two scenes that should have been the most powerful moments in the filmed were dubbed over by a score that sounded like something in a ballroom in the 1910's. The acting was something that I would expect in a teen slasher film not a character driven period piece that focuses on the actors in the film. The film also moved at a pace that was slightly slower than a baby snail, it was the kind of movie that really makes you wonder why it is that it made it past pre-production.

The bottom Line is some films should just not be made, Savage Grace was one of those films.

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An interesting peak into an alien world
seawalker28 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
On 17th November 1972, Barbara Daly Baekeland was murdered by her son Antony. "Savage Grace" is about the relationship between the Mother and Son that led to that event. It was the dictionary definition of a dysfunctional relationship.

I liked "Savage Grace" well enough. I thought it was an interesting film from the long absent Tom Kalin, director of "Swoon". There are some UK critics saying that Julianne Moore's performance in "Savage Grace" might well get her another Oscar nomination, and possibly even the gong itself, but I just cannot see that happening. Julianne Moore is good as Barbara Daly Baekeland (has she ever been anything but good?), and Eddie Redmayne is really terrific as her son Antony, but the film is remote and cold and not one that goes in for the kind of grand gestures that win Oscars.

"Savage Grace" does look wonderful and the cinematography is gorgeous, studying every nook and cranny of the beautiful, indolent rich in all of their glory. All beautifully dressed, nicotine addicted and at times depraved, bored, out of touch and listless.

"Savage Grace" is an interesting peak into an alien world.
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A Messy and Provocative Story of a Dysfunctional Family
Claudio Carvalho2 March 2009
In the 40's, the actress Barbara (Julianne Moore) marries the wealth Brooks Baekeland (Stephen Dillane) aspiring social ascension and fortune. They have a son, Tony, and along the years the dysfunctional family lives in New York, France, Spain and England. Tony (Eddie Redmayne) is homosexual and very connected to his perverted mother, while his father leaves Barbara to live with the Spanish Bianca (Elena Anaya). During a crisis in London in the 70's, the unstable Tony stabs his mother for a futile motive.

I found in IMDb that "Savage Grace" is based on a true story. Unfortunately the awful screenplay discloses a messy and provocative story of a dysfunctional family, but without development of the characters or even a reference that the drama is based on a true story. Maybe the screenplay writer believes that the viewers might be familiarized with the story of Barbara Baekeland and neglected the necessary presentation of the characters and explanation of the situation. The truth is that the bold plot is full of ellipsis and never engaging, and the production seems to be more interest in the locations, cinematography and the perversions than in the drama itself. I am a great fan of the gorgeous and sweet Julianne Moore and her performance is great as usual; actually the cast is excellent but the poor screenplay does not help them. My vote is three.

Title (Brazil): "Pecados Íntimos" ("Intimate Sins")
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the non fiction book is actually gripping the movie just felt completely fake
marymorrissey21 August 2009
Granted the story is so strange that even done well it might be hard to "buy". However, I found the texture of the film to be entirely phony, ringing false in every nuance, every detail.

I was kind of stunned by the portrayal of Brooks as the sort of superior flawless sort he seems to see himself to be. The movie went further actually, portraying him as long suffering Goodman Brooks whereas recollecting my reading of the nonfiction account, which is an oral history - he speaks for himself and of everybody else at great length - I would have written him as much more of a villain in this tale. He wasn't exactly a loving dad or hubby, even if he didn't have much to work with.

Actually in reading the book what shines through as most striking to me is not really so much what happened in terms of the lurid details of the Baekland saga as it is the reactions of all these "friends and family" - people coming from that level of the social strata. There are a lot of really rich and well connected people who are really creepy. Most interviewed aside from the grandmother seemed more than anything concerned with showing off what they each seem to be straining to produce in the way of some clever, witty, unexpected and unique "take" on the affair, and leading the pack and holding forth the most is Brooks. The rich really are different, and the book shows them up close and personal letting it all hang out with savage disgrace! A lot of what happens after the film ends illustrates the startling vanity of many of the people who were involved the Baeklands. A number of them felt motivated to engage in a campaign help Tony get released from Broadmoor, but offered no support whatsoever once he received his walking papers, engendering the latter tragic chapters of this strange episode.

Skip the movie, read the book. It might have made a great movie but this time out sure didn't.
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Soha Bayoumi26 April 2008
Amazing movie! One of the best I've ever seen! I saw it in the Boston Independent Film Festival and was stunned by its beauty, wonderful colors, excellent cinematography (every scene is a painting!), thorough character portrayal, amazing costumes and incredible concern with details. It is so honest, visually captivating and esthetically touching! The script is just perfect, not a superfluous word! The casting is so very successful! Julianne Moore's performance is, in my opinion, the best in her entire career! Eddie Redmayne is just perfect for the role and he does it beautifully! This movie is definitely a must-see!
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