Amber Lake (2011)
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There is some interesting writing from Joe Robert Cole inspired from classics like Rashômon. It's a small budget indie. Everybody does a good job. I do wish for more time with Carmen Argenziano. He is by far the most experienced and most compelling actor. His character is actually the most fascinating. The cop is the weakest. His scenes are the most uninteresting and his character the most problematic. He really contributes nothing and should have limited screen time. The 3 ladies do a good job but I wish they have snappier dialog. I wonder if it would be more compelling if writer Amber is functionally mute. I just think some more directing skills and a more intense Hitchcockian feel is needed.
I found this movie on Netflix and was surprised that it was decent as I had never heard of it.
Three half-sisters all named Amber are invited to the cottage in Amber Lake by their estranged father who, two days later, is found dead near the lake.
Three Ambers are interviewed separately by the local sheriff. Each one of them tells a different story for what happened.
Not the best acting, slow at times but overall a decent movie.
For a low budget independent film it is a decent film. 6.5/10
I won't divulge anything about the plot, except that in a "high concept" way it is interesting. But the devil is in the details, and that's where this thing falls of the axles. It's as if the director said to the main actresses "Act crazy! No, even MORE crazy!!" in every scene they are in. There is no restraint, subtlety or nuance. Every emotion is hammered home with an emotional sledge hammer. Watching these performances is like listening to a singer who thinks she needs to scream every word.
Not that the actors had a lot to work with. The script is laughably bad, full of worn-out stereotypes. The main characters aren't individuals, they are each a clichéd personification of mental illness.
Finally, if you do decide to watch this movie, please don't think that it will get better as it goes along. What you get the first ten minutes is what you will get for the whole tedious hour and twenty minutes.
Virtually the only part of this VOD-from-hell bomb that's tolerable is the premise, and that's because, yes, it's a blatant borrow from the structure of the Kurosawa classic. In this case, it's three very dissimilar sisters, all sharing the same first name, who are invited to a Michigan lake house by the father who abandoned all three of them. Shortly after the reunion, naturally, the father turns up a floater in the titular body of water.
Sounds promising, right? Well, it might be if the dialog didn't stink. No, just calling it "bad" wouldn't be doing it justice. Most of the script is unbelievably dumb, with short choppy sentences that range from inarticulate to campy awkwardness. It's dialog a sixth grader (and not a very bright one) would write. The father is drawn as such an over-the-top pompous ass, and the daughters as such histrionic basket-cases that it's impossible to connect with any of them on any plane resembling reality.
The performances are equally tone deaf, which makes you wonder if this is really one of those homegrown indie shoestring projects. But no....it has a casting director...WTF?
This is rich emotional material that could have been mined for some very heady drama, and it's all been wasted. Actually, I'm not sure first time filmmaker Joe Robert Cole has the ability to make films or perhaps he's just overshot himself. Then again, there are a lot of technical problems with this film...the editing is sloppy, even the audio edits are clumsy.
It's too bad there wasn't an adult in the vicinity who could offer the toxic criticism offered by the character of the father in this film. It could have saved Cole a lot of embarrassment and us a lot of time.
More story background would have been nice since it seemed a little thin in areas.
I would have liked to know more about the father.
It was somewhat unrealistic how the three sisters bonded so quickly.
The chick with the body of a 10 year old boy was annoying.
There were several slow moments leading up to the reveal.
I did like the twist ending.
Overall it is worth viewing.
Wished it was better because it could have been really good.
Following that moment, the movie starts to become a psychological murder mystery. And a good one I may add. The performances delivered by the three upcoming actresses are chilling and charming at once. There is a fine line between overacting a inner disorder and underacting the severe impact such an disorder could have. I'm glad to say that they walked that fine line perfectly. There are even some funny subtle moments in the movie, which even give the characters more depth. Watching the story unfold and seeing more of their disorder come to light is both a thrill and unsettling. The portrayal of the father completes the ensemble both performance and presence wise. He is played with an authority which is a good contrast with how the Ambers are portrayed.
I have to say, for a director at the start of his professional career, this movie will be one that even after years to come, he can look back upon with great satisfaction. It's a raw movie, with some interesting cuts to a beat during the intro and further along the movie. The sound design is great, lending sound cues from the TV show "Lost" and "The Dark Knight" but bending them towards the character of this movie. The stringy sound of the music, helps set the mood of anarchy in the minds of the three sisters and their father. But also the absence of music in the movie emphasizes the loneliness of each character. The visual presentation is in conjuncture with the sound and theme of the movie. Empty wide shots filled with characters who fill the scene with emptiness. It feels like a slideshow, where every picture empty as it is, is rich of details and tells a story, which combined makes the movie more than a sum of its parts. Although it is low budget, the total look and feel could have been from a high budget production where the director made stylistic choices ending up with the same result.
This is a great movie for everyone who likes murder mysteries with a partially surprising end. Minor faults in audio recording and some quirky filmed shots (which maybe were even left in on purpose during the editing) don't make the movie less good. It even gives it a certain quality which you rarely see in low budget movies. Normally a low budget movie shows us what can't be done, this movie shows us, what can be done. Doing this on a lower budget definitely makes it worth 9 out of 10. As mentioned before, this movie is more than the sum of its parts, well worth seeing.