A stranger attempts to convince a happily married couple that their daughter is actually his daughter reincarnated.A stranger attempts to convince a happily married couple that their daughter is actually his daughter reincarnated.A stranger attempts to convince a happily married couple that their daughter is actually his daughter reincarnated.
A serious misfire...
I like Robert Wise movies and I think he was a brilliant stylist who could always be counted on to express the zeitgeist of the age. This film, however, is a serious misfire on his part. Its basic (and only) premise is to treat the possibility of reincarnation as something dramatic, shocking and even potentially scary. Even admitting reincarnation does exists, the heroine's story doesn't make a whit of sense on any level or plane of reality you can name. In this film, reincarnation is just another disease of the week used to justify a soap opera where Marsha Mason can shed as many Oscar-baiting tears as she wants, act all motherly, irrationally change her mind every five minutes while crumpling her handkerchief and filling the screen with the sound of mucus. Whereas Anthony Hopkins is a compelling presence stating an interesting case in an interesting way, John Beck, as Ivy's biological father, is clearly a studmuffin-with-buns-of steel-of-the-month actor whose part demands nothing more than the ability to look tough, use his fists occasionally and remain an uncompromising and uncomprehending lantern-jawed heel from beginning to end. The film starts with a stomach-churning idyllic exposition of what a fun place Manhattan can be for families who have no money worries and whose bread winner exercises an unidentified profession that vaguely has something to do with advertising. The Templetons live in the bosom of luxury with their pampered and obnoxious daughter, in the apex of gracious living quarters, in an era when burnt orange, brown, beige and dark oak were considered an acceptable colour scheme and off-white neo-colonial plush furniture was considered the epitome of good taste. That itself is scarier than anything else the script can come up with. Historical note: the mixture of horror scenes and a trial setting could have given interesting results if one is to judge by the recent "Exorcism of Emily Rose" (very good film but no relation, unfortunately), but in this film it just adds another layer of absurdity to the proceedings. Robert Wise has always been able to absorb the spirit of his times without being subservient to it (e.g.: Eleanor's car trip and the spiral staircase scene in "The Haunting" are an homage to the same scenes in Hitchcock's "Psycho" and "Vertigo" respectively, while remaining personal); but in this film, one senses a willingness to compete with the memory of "Rosemary's Baby", "The Exorcist" and "Don't Look Back" as well as the impossibility to do so because the underlying material and the reason to care are simply absent. I for one was thankful to stop hearing the little brat whine at the end of the film. But the thing that dates the movie the most and definitely relegates it to the putrid pile of 70's "new age crap" is the fact that, nowadays, the person who would be put on trial for murder is the irresponsible hypnotist quack whose work we are asked to respect and take seriously.
- Feb 22, 2006
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