|Volume 92, Issue 63
Wednesday, January 20, 1999
elmer the elephant
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Downey gives rehabilitating performance in Dreams
Photo by Francois Duhamel
By Sara Martel
The new version of the suspense-thriller genre constitutes a dollop of excitement with a saturation of gore, a squeeze of predictability and two cups of Jennifer Love-Hewitt's breasts. Most audiences hope for a few goosebumps, knowing they will have to take all the other stuff as part of the genre meal.
These expectations will certainly not be abandoned when audiences walk into director Neil Jordan's suspense thriller In Dreams. The movie follows a Claire Cooper's (Annette Bening) struggle between dreams and reality when a serial killer, Vivian Thompson (Robert Downey Jr.) shares his dreams with her, dragging her into a world of murder and madness. Undeniably, this is a movie meant to keep your anxious fingers digging into the back of the theatre seat in front of you.
However, this movie doesn't contain itself merely within stereotypical conventions of its genre. It instead forms and follows its own unique path.
In Dreams doesn't use an abundance of gore to compensate for bad writing and a transparent plot. The fake blood is kept to a minimum and is hardly missed due to a reasonable dialogue and intriguing story developments. Rather than incessant gruesome deaths to keep the audience in anticipation, Jordan uses dramatic lighting and cinematography to make the film's effect quite psychological. This surreal element to the movie blurs the borders of reality and leaves the audience guessing about the unknown.
In-your-face, gratuitous violence also leads to the absence of complete implausibility. Not once did Bening get stabbed, hit over the head or thrown down a flight of stairs, only to muster up enough strength to kill Downey Jr. while delivering a witty line.
The characters are weak when they should be weak, speak appropriately for the situations they are in and spiral into madness when the average person would also have snapped. Bening is particularly strong here, delivering a believable portrayal of a woman losing her reality.
Another aspect of the thriller genre which is fairly consistent is communicating to the viewers who the victims will be by making them weak, unpleasant or dumb enough to explore the creaking floorboard upstairs.
In Dreams manages to avoid this scenario, creating characters with a level of intelligence the audience can identify with. The movie avoids the condescension of assuming the audience needs the movie recipe mushed up into simple pieces, placed on a spoon then shoved down their throats.
In Dreams manages to avoid a lot of suspense-thriller duties in order to be, well, ironically enough a suspenseful and thrilling movie. Jordan's direction along with the performances of Bening and Downey Jr. deliver an entertaining and frightening look into the human mind and dream phenomenon.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999