Thursday, 5 October 2017

Gerald's Game (2017)

Stephen King film adaptations are experiencing a resurgence in 2017 and like all the films based on his novels some are amazing, some are terrible, and some of a mixed bag. I found Gerald's Game to be on the positive side of "mixed bag" often stumbling to find the right tone but when it does it knocks it out of the park.

The biggest fault of Gerald's Game is that it doesn't find a consistent sense of dread. It sometimes feels like it's going through the motions, making sure it hits its plot points. Films all shot in one room can be challenging, let alone a film shot almost entirely on one bed, but when they are done right they evoke a real sense of claustrophobia and restraining. Game only gets this right sometimes.

Gerald's Game explores some pretty intense stuff from a generalized deconstruction of male privilege to specifics around gendered marital power dynamics to sexual assault and victim shaming. The film needs to rise to the occasion to handle all of this and it doesn't always quite get there. But when it does it truly does.

The biggest score for Gerald's Game is its (basically) two person cast. Carla Gugino has never quite gotten a fair shake in Hollywood and here she shows herself to be a very fine actor. She imbues Jessie with all the complicated layers needed to pull off such a rich character, a character who has to carry the whole film as most of it happens in her head. She is masterful and I would never have thought this of her but she pulls it off.

Also no slouch is Bruce Greenwood, looking remarkably cut for a man of a certain age, and living up to his usual strong reputation as both her husband and her idea of her husband. His Gerald is the everyman villain, filled with entitlement and resentment, projecting his self-consciousness into his anger at his female counterpart.

Director Mike Flanagan's experience is in horror films and the film works best when it gets' scary. His ability to create a sense of terror at the situation is palpable, and the film's intense "escape" scene is visceral. But his ability to get into the horrors of Jessie's past or her relationship is not as strong.

But in the end I felt overall I appreciated Gerald's Game for what the actors were able to bring to it and the way it examines how a life in gendered shackles imprisons us.

Gerald's Game
Starring: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood
Director: Mike Flanagan
Writers: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard

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