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Relatively new cinematic team of director Ariel Vromen and writer
Joshua Leibner pounce onto the scene with a surprisingly fine little
film that has basically gone unnoticed. DANIKA is a story that demands
the viewer's careful attention and rewards that attention with a finely
wrought surprise ending. This is a tough movie to review: almost
anything that is said about it diminishes the impact of a fresh look.
Danika (the superb and grossly underused actress Marisa Tomei) is a beautiful, well-dressed successful professional woman, loved by her husband Randy (Craig Bierko) and her children Kurt (Kyle Gallner), Lauren (Nicki Prian) and Brian (Ridge Canipe). Yet even from the opening scenes we can tell something is amiss: Danika 'sees' disturbing things, terrifying events and people that alter her attention to her job and her family. She visits a young psychiatrist Evelyn (Regina Hall) who becomes her confidant - the only person who accepts that Danika is witnessing disturbing sights. A mixture of critical pieces of disastrous events flash before Danika's eyes as well as flashbacks to some years back when her children were young. Danika overcompensates for her fears by being an overprotective mother, an unfortunate trait that begins to fracture her family.
The pace of the film changes to rapid fire events as the reasons for Danika's visions become clear: we finally see just what made this brilliant and strong woman the victim of a terrified and disturbed psyche and the manner in which each of the characters in the story impacts this discovery is well-illuminated. The surprise ending scene is a stunner and one that will haunt the viewer.
Marisa Tomei makes this very difficult, well-written role completely believable. She is an actress of enormous gifts. Likewise the remainder of the cast offers such fine ensemble work that credit must be given director Ariel Vromen for being a young talent on the rise. Yes, there are some portions of the film that beg credibility but then that is what delusional thinking is about. This is a tight little film that deserves attention. Grady Harp
I saw Danika's world premiere at the CineVegas film festival this past
weekend. It was an excellent psychological thriller with many twists
and turns. Marisa Tomei is exceptionally convincing in the lead role as
a soccer mom tortured by visions which could be premonitions or
hallucinations. The action in the movie intersperses tension-building
dialog and dramatically shocking visuals with tremendous effectiveness.
The supporting cast is also exceptional in the roles and convince you
of the impact that Danika's visions are having upon them. Regina Hall
is especially impressive as Danika's psychologist.
I would highly recommend seeking this movie out if it comes to a festival or theater near you!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It seems that many people couldn't understand this movie and were
unwilling to accept their own limitations and therefore decided the
movie was to blame. Reading some of those comments made me in turn
annoyed enough to post here for the first time. The short version for
those who haven't seen the movie is there is no 'twist' in the now
common cinematic style there is only the version inside Danika's head
and the revelation of the reality.
For the hard of understanding I'll break this down into simple terms. DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU HAVEN'T YET SEEN THE MOVIE.
There are basically only 3 scenes in this movie.
1) Danika's fantasy life where she rejects the terrible thing that happened to her and tries to substitute her own reality. It doesn't work for her, she sees glimmers of reality through it (herself as a bag-lady, her "brother" dying from her "Mothers" neglect which is clearly her own guilt and many more). If you are looking for the reality of the movie imagine this is what is going through her head as she sits on the bench at the end of the movie. 2) The event that caused the break down, killing her kids. It is as though she is remembering the truth sitting on that bench but it is too painful for her and she quickly retreats back to the fantasy (her kids come back to life and join her and her husband) 3) The real world present day where she is down and out listening to parts of scene one and scene two replay in her head constantly courtesy of her Schizophrenia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schizophrenia)
The whole film up into the last scene is there to give you an impression of what being her and being schizophrenic is. She completely believes her version of reality and the only way to share that impression with the viewer is to "lie" that this is the reality of the film right up until the final scene.
So yes this film has no plot, it's a snapshot of an insane mind. Yes Danika's over protective soccer mom persona is fundamentally unlikable but that person never existed, she is a reflection of her very real guilt over causing the death of her children.
The hallucinations within the scene one fantasy are perhaps the weakest part of the film, they are used as tool to keep a viewer interested long enough to see the film through and while the provide clues that nothing else that is happening is real or at least that there is some level of menatl issue. They do perhaps serve to confuse more than illuminate in some situations. They are however representative of the way a schizophrenic's beliefs may vary and may represent her additional fears and paranoia.
In short you are not ever likely to see a film that will give a better impression of what its like to be insane in this fashion (i.e. believing scene 1 is some kind of reality) but if you can't handle a film that does not have a completely sequential plot, or a writer changing the 'rules' of a film to make a point this will be wasted on you.
I watched quite a few films last year, and "Danika" made it to the top
of my list for intellectual quality and brilliance. It's hard to
comment on it without giving away details and spoilers, so let me just
say, this movie takes your full attention (don't cook dinner and try to
keep up!) Tomei is NEVER a disappointment. It's a wonder she isn't in
more films these days. She is a little older than her fresh-faced "Only
You" days, but time has settled kindly on her, giving her more
character instead of so-called 'flaws.' The ending will leave you in
somewhat of a stunned silence, and then you will sit there and watch
all of the loose ends tie themselves neatly together. You will not walk
away from this movie confused or wondering what it was all about -
unless you weren't paying close attention all along. I admit, there
will be boo-hooers who dislike it because they haven't the patience or
the depth to grasp the true meaning behind this film, but this is why
Danika is a work of art and it's star a true artist. If it were neat
and pat like any good mainstream film, it wouldn't be the hidden jewel
that it is. Many will pass it by, others will scoff and tear it apart.
Let them. Those who grasp it will be those who tend to think a bit
deeper than the first layer of the onion. Danika is a piece of abstract
art - viewing it from different angles, you will see details that
aren't visible to the casual onlooker.
Not for the squeamish, pick it up sometime and give it the credit it deserves!
Let's see: I had great expectations towards this film, since Danika
pretty much has the potential to be a fairly enjoyable thriller, but to
my disappointment, it turned out to be one of those films that
deliberately try to be confusing just for kicks. I don't know about the
others, but I'd say I had my share of these kinds of psychological
thrillers that usually lead to the same disappointing endings and
nonsensical sequences. You know, the typical soft-horror/thriller/drama
flick in which the main character keeps having hallucinations and
visions about horrible things happening around her and the rest of the
characters are dead worried but they still don't do anything to help
her out. Even though Ariel Vromen succeeds to create a puzzling
atmosphere and there are two or three enjoyable moments, I'd say that
these 'twist in the end' fever has been pretty much overdone already.
This film pretty much offers a nice variety of pointless hallucination
sequences in which Marisa Tomei, giving a flawless performance, always
repeats the same situations but in different scenarios. Obviously, it
ends up getting tedious after a a while.
'Danika' is the story of a genuinely desperate housewife, whose main fear is to lose one of her children or the three of them, for that matter. This obsession of overprotecting her kids, turns out to be the result of a traumatic childhood experience, in which poor little Danika loses her brother in a road accident. During the course of the film, the mentally unstable woman, appears basically smothering her children and over-worrying about every little thing, making the rest of her family lose their patience. However, it is clear to Danika that something is definitely not okay with her, as she realizes that she's experiencing weird hallucinations that turn her life into hell on earth.
This film offers a few sequences that promise some sort of explanation whatsoever or at least a tiny little connection to the end. Nevertheless, just like many other recent flicks out there with a twist in the end, 'Danika' turned out to be ambiguous for no reason and it tries to deceive the audience and doubt about their own intelligence. My advice is to avoid this film, unless you are bored and you have nothing else to see. I wouldn't label it as 'unwatchable', because that would be unfair, considering that there are a few good things that deserve to be appreciated, but it's mostly Marisa Tomei's performance actually. 'Danika' is not terribly bad, but frankly, I was utterly disappointed when the good atmosphere and the few achievements were suddenly overshadowed by the silly ending. I wouldn't recommend this... sorry.
Danika is about a young mother whose hallucinations and reality mix together in a strange story of a life gone wrong. A great family and nice life slowly deteriorates as experiences get stranger and stranger. The perfect life starts digressing with each flask of knowledge until the audience is left with nothing. In the end, everything comes together in a powerful tale of woe. Close to the end of the end of the film you are almost guessing what actually happened, but it does surprise. Tomei does a wonderful job and it is a wonder that she is not in more mainstream films. The rest of the cast does a nice job during the film. Technically a class A- film with few continuity errors and a typical story told in a very atypical way.
Psychological thriller .. well the thrills are a bit artificial and
unrelated to the story but there's a bit of suspension still.
Large parts of the movie happen in the main characters mind. The ending is crucial to the integrity of the story. Until you get there you're feeling a bit like "whats the point of this flick?".
I personally thought it was a bit too dragging and slow to rank anywhere higher than 7/10, but a decent psycho-drama still.
Makes you think a bit to understand what its about. Look at the vote statistics, very young people vote low for some weird reason :-)
Gave avg 5 pts for the implementation, but the ending raises it to 7. Of course the fact that you find your self wondering whats going on during the film also is very positive.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I think far too many people are going into this film thinking it's a
supernatural theme - it really isn't. I thought it would be as well
(based off of the DVD case description) and I was pleasantly surprised
to find that I was wrong about that when the final credits rolled.
Ultimately, this movie is a study of the effects of guilt on the human psyche and how our fears can ultimately consume us. Paying close attention to the movie is required to fully unravel the twist ending. If you're not watching it (or rewatching it) carefully, most likely you will miss out on important clues and end up disliking the movie. I thought the cast did an incredible job of being believable, especially Marisa who fluctuated beautifully between sanity and fantasy.
Is this the best movie I've ever seen? No... but I would recommend it to anyone who likes to be surprised.
One bit of advice for those people reading this review after watching the movie and not understanding it: go back and look >closely<, this time, to the items in the shopping cart at the end. Quite a few puzzle pieces that you need to put together to understand the twist are laid out perfectly for you.
Danika plays with supernatural elements but is in fact a psychological thriller! For the horror fans there will not be enough scares! But the scares that were in this movie were very effective! I must admit that Marisa Tomei often got on my nerves,but if you see the ending you will understand why! And then it becomes clear that Marisa Tomei has done a wonderful job! The great thing about this movie is the use of hallucinations! You never know if it's real or not! They are so convincing that one minute you will doubt the main character! And the other minute you will believe her that she is having visions! Also I think that the ending they chose makes sense! I cannot go into more deeper without spoiling the plot! But having read several books on he subject it is not uncommon for this to happen! For this movie it is very important that you watch it closely otherwise you will miss important clues for understanding the ending! Great movie! Check it out!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
We really enjoyed the first part of DANIKA, but it got more and more
confusing as it went along. As the drama progressed, we held out hope
that the many questions we had would be answered, but that did not
happen. After the movie, we went online and searched and only THEN did
we feel like we partially understood the movie. There are still lots of
loose endings and unresolved questions, but maybe this movie was just
too "psychologically thrilling" for us to understand! :)
When all was said and done, it felt like a waste of 80 minutes of our time. If you are someone who enjoys tidy endings to movies, DON'T rent/buy this one.
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