A psychologically troubled novelty supplier is nudged towards a romance with an English woman, all the while being extorted by a phone-sex line run by a crooked mattress salesman, and purchasing stunning amounts of pudding.
Paul Thomas Anderson
Philip Seymour Hoffman
A story that follows a New York woman (who doesn't really have an apartment), apprentices for a dance company (though she's not really a dancer), and throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as their possibility dwindles.
Kris is attacked one night, and hypnotized, using a grub with hypnotic properties, administered by a thief. She follows the thief's instructions to give him everything, even taking out loans. After the worms are extracted, she wakes up to find her life ruined. She's lost her job, her finances are destroyed. Years later, she meets Jeff whom she may have a lot in common with. Written by
Upstream Color begins as a puzzling but reasonably coherent movie; much of the beginning is a disturbing and unpleasant but somewhat interesting sequence in which a woman is kidnapped and kind of hypnotized. While some of it doesn't make much sense, I could think of explanations for why things happen they way they do, and the odd, distanced, no-affect acting is appropriate to what is going on.
Unfortunately distanced characters and no-affect speaking are the rule even after that scene, and puzzling goes to flat out senseless as the movie progresses.
The movie is very much a pretentious art film in which the viewer is supposed to do the work of filling in the gaps of the movie. It is full of strange transitions, inter-cutting between scenes that seem to have nothing to do with one another or between different versions of the same thing. The movie is for people who feel things like story and character development are simple catering to the masses. It is the sort of movie that, if you hate it, you think the people who like it may just be pretending to like it to seem cool, because it is so hard to imagine anyone could genuinely enjoy this. It is a movie that resolutely makes less and less sense as it goes along, so while early on I still thought the elements might somehow be at least vaguely tied together, by the end it appeared that the director himself probably didn't even know how it all connected.
This is not to say there are no interesting ideas in the film, because there are a couple. In fact, you could take parts of this movie and make something vaguely interesting out of them. But this movie fails to use its ideas to good effect. It also never connects you to its characters, leaving you alienated and alone in a confused landscape.
While the movie looks like a puzzle to be solved, I think it is like the famous riddle from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, "Why is a raven like a writing desk," in which when she admits she cannot solve it she is told there is no answer. There is no answer to this movie either, although someone may eventually cobble one together, in the same way that, years later, someone answered the Raven riddle (because Poe wrote on both).
The frustrating thing is, I can't stop mulling over what it means, and yes, I am thinking of connections and possibilities. But these connections do not themselves connect. You can make some of this make sense, at least in terms of allegory, but there are always loose ends, like leftover screws in Ikea furniture. And while fans of this movie will watch it over and over, looking for clues, I would never put myself through this again, because the movie is quite boring and just plain tiring to sit through.
In looking at reviews, trying to figure out why critics love this movie, I found comments that it was brilliantly and beautifully filmed. I don't understand that reaction. From the first moment I thought it was a flat- looking, low budget movie. Competently filmed within its limitations, certainly, but that's about it.
I have a friend who will only watch indie films, and after she rejected my first three choices, we settled on this. She soon apologized for rejecting my choices (she kept complaining and apologizing, in fact, until someone in the theater told her to shut up) and promised that next time I could choose the movie.
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