Monday, April 8, 2013

ANTIVIRAL: A new Cronenberg appears on the scene;the apple has fallen very close by

When TrustMovies first heard abut the plot of ANTIVIRAL -- the first full-length film from Brandon Cronenberg, son of David -- set maybe a few days into the future and having to do with celebrity and the lengths that the public will go to worship and "get closer" to those they idolize, the premise sounded so ridicu-lous that my first thought was, "He'll never be able to manage that." I've now seen the film and, by god, the kid has pulled it off.

The first thing you may notice about the movie is how creepily concerned it is with the body in all its sordid glory. Sound familiar? Yes, Cronenberg fils appears to have a jones for all things corpus-like, just as did his dad in a number of his earlier movies -- from 1975's They Came From Within (or Shivers, as it was originally titled) through 1996's Crash (this one was the memorable of the two Crashes). Further, I believe, given what appears in Antiviral, that Brandon (shown at right) may actually have an even more organic and subtle sense of the body, its glories and horrors, than did his dad, whose movies were a lot of gross fun but sometimes seemed a tad more showy than was perhaps necessary. What makes this movie work so surprisingly well is how young Cronenberg has conceived of this dystopian future and then filled it with visual after visual that brings the point home quietly, firmly, horribly.

Not only has celebrity run amok here, it's running hand-in-hand with Capitalism at is worst -- a combination that, though it is never mentioned directly, appears to have cancelled out most love relationships. The world is full of celebrity-worshiping singles, and it matters not a whit whether they are men or women, gay or straight, so long as they "purchase" from their chosen celeb. (The particular "meat market" we witness here, is nothing like anything you will have seen.)

Among these celebrities is a beautiful young blond named Hannah Geist (played by Sarah Gadon -- on the poster two photos up and and in bed, just above), who, as the movie rolls on, grows sicker and sicker due to some sort of a virus -- with which our hero, Syd, being a Hannah worshiper, has managed to contaminate himself. What is this virus? Is there a cure? And who has created it and why? These questions and plenty of others get asked (some are even answered) by the end of this -- one of the least appetizing movies ever made, though still, I insist, remarkably well done.

In the supporting cast are a number of names and faces we know and love -- from Sheila McCarthy to Wendy Crewson and Malcolm McDowell. All of them are very fine, but it is the real star of the movie -- its skeevy, creepy leading man -- who makes it all so very watchable. His name is Caleb Landry Jones (shown above and below), a Texas lad whom we've seen earlier in films like No Country for Old Men (he was the boy on the bike at the end) and Andy, the nitwit kid brother in Contraband. Jones is clearly a very versatile actor, but nothing will have prepared you for the work he does here: creating out of whole cloth a character who is a riveting ball of tics and oddities that are so bizarre and yet so oddly enticing that you cannot look away. If this fellow keeps it up and is given roles commensurate with his talent, he's going to have a long and illustrious career.

This movie is not for everyone; it's far too dark and dank to be a crowd-pleaser. My companion found it well-done but too long (I agree: five to ten minutes could be judiciously cut). But it's an original and a keeper. And it is difficult to imagine any other film taking celebrity -- and what's left of humanity -- to any more profound or further depths than are found here.

Antiviral -- from IFC Films in the company' popular Midnight series, and running 108 minutes -- opens this Friday, April 12, in theaters (in New York City, it will be showing at the IFC Center) and simultaneously on VOD. To learn how to watch it at home, simply click here and follow through....

No comments: