Oh, the high hopes I had for You Should Have Left.
Not only was this horror film reuniting one of my favorite actors with the man who directed him in one of his best performances but it also featured what appeared to be the perfect casting of Amanda Seyfried as Kevin Bacon’s daughter. When I heard that the film featured Bacon trying to protect his family from an evil spirit, I was totally ready to watch a film that would feature ghosts trying to grab Amanda while Kevin yelled, “Leave me daughter alone!”
Of course, then I found out that Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried were not playing father and daughter. They were playing husband and wife. And listen, I love Kevin Bacon. I think he’s a great actor and he seems like a nice guy and I always appreciate the fact that he’s willing to make fun of himself and his up-and-down career. But seriously, Kevin Bacon is 28 years older than Amanda Seyfried and hearing that they would not only be playing husband and wife but that they would also be playing the parents of a young girl …. well, I wasn’t expecting much.
To the film’s credit, it doesn’t attempt to ignore the age difference between Bacon and Seyfried. This isn’t like one of those films where Michael Douglas is married to someone who just graduated from high school and everyone just shrugs it off as if there isn’t anything weird about it. Instead, the age difference is a major plot point of the movie. Kevin Bacon plays Theo, a retired, wealthy banker. Amanda Seyfried plays Susanna, an actress. From the start of the film, Theo obviously feels insecure about whether or not his much younger wife loves him. When he has trouble gaining access to a film set where she’s acting, he gets a bit paranoid. When he finds out that she was filming a love scene, he gets even more paranoid. Throughout the film, Theo worries that Susanna is gong to leave him for a younger man.
Meanwhile, Susanna struggles with how to explain to their daughter why no one likes Theo. It turns out that Susanna is Theo’s second wife. Theo’s first wife drowned in a bathtub. Theo was accused of murdering her but he was subsequently acquitted. As Susanna explains what happened, it becomes a bit obvious that she has her own doubts about her husband and his innocence.
When they receive an invitation to stay at a house in Wales, both Theo and Susanna assume that the other one arranged it. Actually, neither one of them arranged it! Still, it’s a really nice house and it seems like the perfect place for them to repair their strained marriage and work on their trust issues …. except for the fact that there’s obviously somebody or something inside the house with them!
Now, really, You Should Have Left should have worked. As I said before, I like Kevin Bacon and I think Amanda Seyfried is a far better actress than she’s actually given credit for being. Add to that, You Should Have Left was directed by David Koepp, who previously directed Bacon in Stir of Echoes. Remember how good that movie was? And yet, while You Should Have Left has a few creepy moments, it ultimately falls flat. What happened?
I think some of the problem is that, regardless of how much you may like the actors playing them, nether Theo nor Suzanna is a particularly compelling character. Theo, in particular, keeps a meditation journal. Stir of Echoes Kevin Bacon would have kicked the ass of You Should Have Left Kevin Bacon. Seriously, the minute you break out the meditation journal, that’s the minute I stop taking you seriously as a protagonist. The film also cheated a bit when it came to the issue of whether or not Theo murdered his wife. Instead of saying yes or no, the film tried to keep things ambiguous and it just didn’t feel right.
In the end, the film just didn’t work. The pacing was off. The visual style was bland. For all the build-up, there was nothing particularly interesting about the house’s secret. For all the talent involved, the film just fell flat.