August 23, 2003

Sinking Like a Stone


In theory, damning reviews aside, PCC had high hopes for Ed Solomon's latest film, Levity, starring Billy Bob Thorton, Holly Hunter, Kirsten Dunst and Morgan Freeman. It seemed like the perfect cast- Thorton as a recently released murderer, Hunter as a tough single mother harboring a dark secret, Dunst as a party girl who isn't as strong as she seems and Freeman as a preacher. But even a stellar cast couldn't save this film from deteriorating into a mess of disparate characters, repetitive voice-overs and puzzling messages.


Thorton- who has made a career of playing quiet loners with dark secrets- plays Manual Jordan, a recently parolee who killed a teen during a robbery 23 years ago. He is obsessed with the boy and has kept a newspaper article about the crime in his cell. Somehow, he thinks that by 'helping' (we're not quite sure what this means, even after the film is over) the dead boy's sister (Hunter), he'll somehow be forgiven. But here's where it gets tricky. In one of many rambling, overly philosophic voice-overs, he explains to us that he read a book detailing 5 steps to salvation/redemption/forgiveness...but he doesn't believe in these steps or in the God who will supposedly forgive the sinner after the completion of said steps. So what exactly is it that Manual is seeking?


Hunter does the best she can with an underdeveloped character, but even her considerable acting skills aren't enough to flesh out the improbable caricature of Adele Easley. What is perhaps the most irritating aspect of Hunter's character is the complete lack of plausible motive. Why would she, a single woman living in a rough neighborhood (Solomon goes to great pains to show us that the action takes place on the 'wrong side of the tracks'), allow a creepy looking man like Thorton, who's been following her no less, into her apartment? And, without spoiling the ending (though there isn't much to spoil), why would Hunter did make the final choice she did concerning Manual's 'situation' with her son, Abner?

Dunst and Freeman are completely extraneous characters who add nothing but confusion to the narrative. In theory, they are supposed to provide 'examples' of redemption. But we don't care about them. They have no backstory, no real traits other than the stereotypical girl-who-parties-to-escape-her-homelife and the strange preacher that no one seems to listen to, but whose message somehow pervades the film. Perhaps that's the glaring problem with this film: there is a heavy-handed message flashing in figurative neon lights in every scene. But we're not sure what exactly it is and why we should care.

Posted by jordan at August 23, 2003 11:07 AM