Sometimes there's nothing like a really bad movie to make you appreciate the good ones. Even mediocre fare can look surprisingly competent, once you've subjected yourself to films as poorly conceived and executed as RACING DAYLIGHT) or so thoroughly second-, third- and fourth-hand like THE GENE GENERATION.
|I rented Racing Daylight on the basis of its cast, which includes Melissa Leo, below (nominated for an Oscar this year for her work in Frozen River), and|
David Strathairn (above). I've loved Ms Leo's work since I first encountered it in an off-Broadway theatre more than 20 years ago, and I have never seen her give a bad performance. Until now. I can only credit the film's writer/director Nicole Quinn for what must have been her help in obtaining from Ms Leo acting that is overwrought, phony and foolish. I simply cannot believe that this actress made these "choices" completely on her own. That she plays two roles in the film only adds to the discomfort-level viewers are likely to feel. Mr. Strathairn, from whom I also have never seen anything less than sterling work, is a bit luckier. Halfway (or so) through the film he gets to switch into an ironic, "Let's look at the camera and sort of 'address' the viewer" mode, which he does very well, and this goes quite a distance toward redeeming his work.
|Finally, it is Ms. Quinn's idea of conflating a murder mystery with a ghost story with a romance with a time-travel tale -- without the skills to tackle even a single one of these properly -- that leaves everything and everyone in the lurch. This was Quinn's first attempt as writer/director/producer. The good news is that she can only move up from here. Watching the "making of" sections on the DVD's Special Features was interesting, if a little sad: Hearing all these performers go on and on in such sincere fashion about the filmmaking and acting process. Actors, bless, 'em, must give their all and get into the swing of things by feeling, or maybe pretending, that their particular role is something wonderful and worthy of their special skills. The cast does so in spades in this "making-of" featurette. Included, among many other talented folk are Giancarlo Esposito, Denny Dillon and Jason Downs (shown above), all of whom play dual-roles to half-effect. (The photographs above are by Dion Ogust.)|
|The Gene Generation, on the other hand, actually has some skills on view: interesting cinematography (Anthony G. Nakonechnyj) that offers a future in which brackish chartreuse and metallic gray vie for prominence (the green tones win hands-down) and a story that warns us of the genetic missteps that science might well make. Unfortunately none of this is remotely novel; we've seen it all time and again, if perhaps not featuring the likes of Ms. Faye Dunaway as Scientist Number One, who soon morphs into a slithering genetic mishap. The real draw here will be the movie's star Bai Ling (above) who looks as good as she ever did, even after 60 performances over some 25 years. We see a lot of her here, in and out of costume, and if her -- well, I would call them "erectile nipples" -- tend to draw your attention away from the plodding and silly story line, consider yourself fortunate. Cuties Parry Shen and Alec Newman play, respectively, Ling's brother and love interest, while director/co-writer Pearry Reginald Teo brings everything to a heavy boil early on and does his best to keep it there for a very long 96 minutes. Unfortunately, the best, as they sometimes tell us, is none too good.|