Tuesday, March 20, 2018

In Steven Soderbergh's UNSANE, nitwittery hits a ripe new height

You've got to hand it to Steven Soderbergh. When he's good (as in last year's Logan Lucky), he's very good, and when he fails, he does it big-time: no halfway-there for this guy! His new movie, UNSANE, is as ripe a piece of unintentional camp silliness that we've seen in, well, let's just say it makes that recent Halle Berry thriller Kidnap look like a classic of the genre. Word has it that Unsane was filmed entirely via cell phone (see shot of the director, below).

If so, congratulations --  though the film is nowhere as good as either King Kelly or Tangerine, both of which were "cell-phone" precursors of this overlong, let's-toss-believability-out-the-window mess.

The mess is less due to Mr. Soderbergh, who at least knows how to move things along, than to its writers -- Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer -- who take a smart, timely idea (a rehab center that entraps its clients and then won't let them go until their insurance payments have expired) and then fills it with such stupid and nitwit details (male and female patients sleep in the same room?) and ridiculous coincidence that all credibility is soon left for dead.

The film stars Claire Foy (above), who is onscreen for practically the entire movie and does a yeoman job of "trying." But her character is so thoroughly manufacturer-to-fit-the-bill that, again, any credence or caring is lost to behavior that is rather unlike any seen either on screen or in the world as we know it. (The character is repeatedly warned what her violent behavior will bring her, and so she engages in it like there's no tomorrow.)

This makes her rather the equal of the film's villain, played with enough relish to fill three movies (and a whole lot of hot dogs) by Joshua Leonard, above, who has been quite good elsewhere (Humpday), and I'm sure will rise again.

For a short while (this is the most believable section of the film), we are meant to wonder if our girl is sane or not so, but it soon becomes clear that she's the victim. Subsidiary characters are the equal, in terms of believability, of the leads: There's the unhelpful matron, played by Polly McKie (above, left) and another patient, limned by the always-fun Juno Temple (below), who exists simply and only to annoy our heroine.

The most interesting character, a patient who is really an investigative reporter planning to "out" this rehab center, is played by Jay Pharoah (below, right), but what this fellow can so easily accomplish (rather obviously yet without anyone noticing) just adds to the film's foolishness.

Yes, we also get that scene of running down totally unpopulated hallways (this is yet another "thriller" in which a medical facility seems to have lost its entire staff), and a heroine who can stab the bad guy but then forgets to do it again so he is incapacitated. And on and on it goes.

In retrospect, I think this may be the perfect movie for our Trump era -- in which everybody (on both sides of the screen) is either sleazy or stupid. Good luck to us all.

From Bleecker Street and running a too-long 97 minutes the movie opens (pretty much nationwide, I believe) this Friday, March 23. Click here then scroll down to find the theater(s) nearest you.

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