Catching Up With The Films of 2018: Fifty Shades Freed (dir by James Foley)


“Mrs. Grey will see you now.”  (Insert your own eye roll GIF here.)

Occasionally, you see a film and, even though you know you should, you just never get around to reviewing it.  For instance, I saw Fifty Shades Freed when it was originally released in February and then I watched it again when it was released on DVD.  Both times, I thought to myself that I should write down my thoughts on the film, if for no other reason than the fact that I previously reviewed both Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker for this site.  And yet, I never did.  To be honest, it was difficult to really think of anything to say about this movie that I hadn’t said about the previous two films.

Fifty Shades Freed opens with Christian (Jamie Dornan) and Ana (Dakota Johnson) getting married and going on their honeymoon.  It’s fun!  It’s sexy!  And it’s kinda creepy because, as always, Christian has control issues and he has to have his security team following them all over the place.  Christian freaks out with Ana removes her top on the beach.  Ana gasps at the sights of handcuffs.  There’s one hot sex scene that will temporarily make you forget about the fact that Jamie Dornan doesn’t seem to be that good of an actor.  It’s everything that you’d expect from a Fifty Shades honeymoon.

Unfortunately, the honeymoon ends way too quickly and then we have to deal with the marriage.  On the plus side, marrying Christian Grey means that you get to live in a really nice house and fly around in a private jet.  On the negative side, Christian is still basically an immature douchebag and, now that’s she rich, Ana has become a lot less likable.

Christian freaks out when he discovers that Ana is still using the name “Ana Steele” in her email address.  Ana explains that she’s Ana Steele at work but then, when she meets an architect named Gia Matteo (Arielle Kebbell), Ana tells her to stop flirting with her husband and announces, “You can call me Mrs. Grey!” with all the intensity of Kelly Kapowski announcing that she’s going to prom with Zach Morris on Saved By The Bell.

The marriage continues to play out like a perfume commercial written by Sartre’s bastard child.  Fortunately, there’s a few more sex scenes that are designed to again remind us that a good body can make up for a lack of everything else.  Unfortunately, Ana gets upset when Christian tries to humiliate her for real and a pouty Christian walks out of a shower as soon as Ana steps into it.  Ana is told that she’s pregnant and Christian totally freaks out because he still has all sorts of things that he wants to do with his money.  Christian’s a douchebag but he’s got a good body and he’s like super rich.  Have I already mentioned that?

Anyway, it turns out that Ana is being stalked by her former boss, Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson).  Fortunately, all of the stalking allows Ana and Christian to rediscover their love for each other.  There’s a kidnapping.  There’s a car chase.  There’s a lot of music and a lot of scenes of Dakota Johnson looking confused and Jamie Dornan looking blank.  It’s a Fifty Shades movie.  What else were you expecting?

The usual argument that critics tend to make with the Fifty Shades trilogy is that the movies are terrible but Dakota Johnson does the best that she can with the material.  Actually, both Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are pretty lousy in all three of these films but Ana was at least kind of a sympathetic character in the previous two films.  Unfortunately, Fifty Shades Freed sees Ana and Christian becoming a boring married couple and what little chemistry Dornan and Johnson had in the previous films completely vanishes.  As a result, Ana doesn’t seem like someone lucky enough to have fallen in love with a man who just happens to be super wealthy.  Instead, she just comes across like someone who sold her soul for a private jet.

Fifty Shades Freed is the weakest of the trilogy, done in by the fact that there’s really not much of a story to tell.  Ana and Christian get to live blissfully ever after and it’s always good to see happy mannequins.  I saw this movie with my best friend and we talked through the entire movie and I imagine that’s what we’ll do every time we rewatch it.

TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.17 “Wounds and Scars” (dir by James Foley)


“It was like taking a hike to your favorite spot and finding a hole where the lake used to be.”

— Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) in Twin Peaks 2.17 “Wounds and Scars”

The year was 1991 and all was not well in the world of Twin Peaks.  While, on the show, Leland Palmer murdered his daughter and Josie Packard died after killing Thomas Eckhardt, there was even more drama occurring behind-the-scenes.

Since the first season, the plan had always been for Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) to end up together.  MacLachlan and Fenn had serious chemistry in their scenes together.  As characters, Cooper and Audrey seemed like they belonged together.  Even Cooper’s concerns about the age difference didn’t seem like that much of a problem.  (After all, Audrey may have been a teenager but Sherilyn Fenn was not.)  The show’s audience wanted them to end up together.

However, there was one problem.

Lara Flynn Boyle.

Kyle MacLachlan was dating Lara Flynn Boyle and, according to several people who worked on the show, Fenn and Boyle did not get along.  With Boyle not particularly excited about the prospect of watching her boyfriend play love scenes with her rival, Kyle MacLachlan complained to the show’s producers that Cooper would never get together with Audrey because of their age difference.  As a result, Billy Zane was hastily brought in to replace Cooper as Audrey’s love interest.

Personally, I’m not really sure that Cooper needed a love interest.  During the first season, he was written as being so old-fashioned and upright that he was nearly asexual.  (The only indication that Cooper even had a sex drive came when Laura kissed him in his dream and he smiled.)  In the second season, Cooper became a little more, for lack of a better word, “human.”  But he was still traumatized by the death of Caroline and he put his devotion to the Bureau above all else.  Ideally, Cooper would have spent the entire show as a chaste Galahad.

Obviously, ABC disagreed.  They wanted Cooper to have a girlfriend.  We’ll see how this was handled in today’s episode.

So, without any further ado, let’s look at “Wounds and Scar!”

Following the opening credits, we get an extreme close-up of Harry Truman’s (Michael Ontkean) bloodshot eyes.  He’s drinking at the Bookhouse.  A saxophone wails on the soundtrack.  That’s never a good sign.  He’s having flashbacks to his time with the now dead Josie.  Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) brings Harry a breakfast from the diner.  Hawk tells Harry that everyone at the station is concerned.

“You and Cooper can handle it,” Harry says, “It’s a pretty simple town.”

Really?  Twin Peaks is a simple town?  What show have you been watching, Harry?

At the Diner, a new character steps through the front doors and — OH MY GOD!  IT’S HEATHER GRAHAM!  She’s playing Annie.  It turns out that she’s Norma’s (Peggy Lipton) sister and she has just left a convent.  Annie is going to be working at the diner.  Heather Graham has really pretty hair.

Meanwhile, Major Briggs (Don S. Davis) is finishing his breakfast when the Log Lady (Catherine Coulson) walks up to him and touches the marks on his neck.

Back at the sheriff’s station, Hawk tells Cooper that Harry is about hit bottom.  Cooper is frustrated with his lack of success in tracking down Windom Earle.  Luckily, Hawk speaks exclusively in wise sayings.  He suggests letting the rain fall where it may.

At the cabin (which, somehow, no one else seems to have stumbled across), Windom (Kenneth Welsh) sniffs the country air and tells his slave, Leo (Eric Da Re), that you can’t understand how wonderful country life is until you’ve lived it.  It plays like a nice little parody of Cooper and Harry’s conversation about whittling in the pilot.

Windom checks the newspaper and gets upset over Cooper’s latest move.  He says that Cooper is playing a stalemate game but he doesn’t know the meaning of stalemate.  Neither do I, to be honest.  I prefer checkers to chess.  Windom then realizes that Cooper must be getting help and he throws a fit because he cannot stand people who don’t play by the rules.  “Many people are going to regret this!”

Meanwhile, at the Great Northern, Audrey is demonstrating a proper runway walk while Dick (Ian Buchanan) hits on the models.  Mr. Pinkle (David L. Lander) — the same guy who sold Bobby and Shelly the porto-patient device that didn’t really work out that well — shows up to tell Dick about the pine weasel.  Mr. Pinkle is carrying a stuffed pine weasel but Dick says that they need a living pine weasel.  Showing a stuffed animal at a benefit for an endangered species?  That would be totally gauche.

Wheeler (Billy Zane) shows up to talk to Audrey about their dinner.  They both try to apologize at the same time.  Wheeler asks her to go on a picnic with him.  And, hey — Billy Zane is cute and all but the Wheeler/Audrey romance feels totally forced.  We all know that Audrey should either be with Cooper or killing ninjas in Hong Kong.  Those are really the only two options.

Harry is still drinking at the Bookhouse.  Cooper approaches and tells him about Josie’s sordid past.  He says that Harry has to understand that Josie was a hardened killer.  Harry yells at Cooper to go.

In her office, Catherine (Piper Laurie) looks over the plans for the Ghostwood Estatea when Jones (Brenda Strong) suddenly steps into the office and says that she’s there to expedite the transfer of Thomas and Josie’s bodies to Hong Kong.  Jones says she has a gift from Thomas, so Catherine promptly pulls a gun.  Calmly, Jones hands over a black box.

At the Hayward house, someone knocks on the door.  Donna answer, only to find a friendly old man who claims to be named Dr. Gerald Craig.  Dr. Craig says that he is an old friend of her father’s and he was just stopping by to see if old Doc Hayward was around and — wait a minute!  That’s not Gerald Craig!  That’s Windom Earle in disguise!

Donna asks Dr. Craig if he’d like to come inside and — DONNA, YOU IDIOT!  DON’T JUST INVITE STRANGE MEN INTO YOUR HOUSE!  In less than a month, a dozen people have died in Twin Peaks and Donna is still letting strange men into her house.  Anyway, Dr. Craig gives Donna a small gift for her dad, makes her promise not to open it, and then leaves.

Meanwhile, Pete Martell (Jack Nance) is studying a dozen or so chess boards.  Cooper comes in and Pete tells him that he’s studied every stalemate game in history but that there’s no way to play chess without losing at least a few pieces.  No matter what happens, Pete says, at least six people are going to die.  Cooper tells Pete to stick with it.

In the lobby, Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) and Andy (Harry Goaz) play chess.  Lucy gets mad because Andy moved his knight “without doing the little hook thing.”  “You don’t have to the little hook thing, that’s optional,” Andy says.  Sound good to me, Andy!  But, no, Pete explains that the hook thing is not optional.

Suddenly, Maj. Briggs and the Log Lady both step into the station.  They’re concerned because both of them have the same three triangle pattern, Briggs on his neck and the Log Lady on the back of her leg.  The Log Lady says that she got her mark when she was seven years old.  She was walking in the woods when she saw a flash of light and heard an owl.  When she returned home, she was told that she had been missing for a day.

Audrey and Wheeler are at their picnic.  Wheeler is singing.  C’mon, Audrey, are you actually falling for this?  Go see Cooper before he meets Annie…

At the Hayward House, Doc Hayward (Warren Frost) returns home with Mrs. Hayward (Mary Jo Deschanel) rolling along beside him.  Donna tells them that Gerald Craig visited.  Doc Hayward says that’s not possible.  Gerald Craig was Doc’s roommmate.  He drowned after a rafting accident.  (So?  Drowning never stopped Andrew Packard.)  Mrs. Hayward calls the contact number that Dr. Craig left and it turns out to be the number of a cemetery.  Doc Hayward unwraps Dr. Craig’s gift and it’s a chess piece!

At the gas station, Ed (Everett McGill) tries to talk to Nadine (Wendy Robie) about breaking up.  Unfortunately, Ed needs a divorce but Nadine still thinks they’re in high school.  Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) is there to try to help her understand what’s happening but he’s not much help.  Nadine is more concerned about the fact that she just now noticed that she’s missing an eye.

Back at the Hayward House, someone else knocks on the door.  This time, Mrs. Hayward answers and it’s Ben Horne (Richard Beymer).  As Donna watches from the stairs, Ben whispers something in her mother’s ear and then kisses her.

At the diner, Peggy encourages Shelly (Madchen Amick) to enter the Miss Twin Peaks pageant.  Meanwhile, Cooper has entered the diner and seen Annie and he’s immediately so overwhelmed by her attraction to him that he actually stammers.  No, Cooper — AUDREY!

Before Cooper can fall any further in love, Hawk enters and tells him that they have a problem at the Bookhouse.  Harry is destroying all of the furniture!  When Cooper shows up, Harry calls him Deputy Dale and yells at him some more.  This is the most emotion we’ve seen from Harry since the series began.

Uh-oh, Harry’s holding a gun and he doesn’t want to give it to Cooper.  However, Harry eventually breaks down, shouts that Josie didn’t have to die, and then falls into Cooper’s arms.  Cooper and Hawk put Harry to bed.  Hawk says that Harry has never been like this before.

At the Great Northern, Mike (Gary Hershberger) and Nadine are getting a room under the name “Mr. and Mrs. Hinkman.”  Seriously, the Great Northern looks way too expensive for just a one night stay.  They should have gone to the motel and gotten an hourly room.  Knowing Mike, they probably would have only needed it for 8 minutes or so.

In the ballroom, Ben Horne is thanking everyone for showing up at this charity fashion show.  This is one of those plotlines that you’d never see today.  Nobody has the guts to make fun of rich (and fake) environmentalists anymore.  It’s a shame.

Anyway, the fashion show starts and there’s Dick describing each outfit.  (I really love Ian Buchanan’s performance in this episode.  He makes Dick into such a likable phony.)  Lucy and Andy are two of the models.  Good for them!

While the model walk the runway, Catherine approaches Ben and tells him that she knows he’s a just faking all of his environmental concern.  Ben says that the experience of being accused of Laura’s murder and his subsequent bout with insanity have truly changed him.

Dick has Mr. Pinkle bring out a living pine weasel.  Pinkle explains that the pine weasel is attracted to certain sells, like very cheap cologne.  Of course, this immediately leads to the pine weasel leaping at Dick and biting down on his nose.  Panic breaks out!  Audrey nearly gets run over but luckily, Wheeler is there to literally sweep her off her feet and kiss her.

Meanwhile, at the Bookhouse, one deputy looks over the sleeping Harry.  Jones sneaks up behind him and quickly knocks him unconscious.  She places a gun on the nightstand beside Harry’s bed.  She then undresses, lets down her hair, and lay down beside him…

End credits.

Overall, this was a pretty good episode except for the fact that we all know that Cooper and Audrey belong together.  While I can understand Audrey’s flirtation with Wheeler, Cooper’s sudden attraction to Annie felt a bit out of character, a case of Twin Peaks trying a bit too hard.

Some would probably argue that the bit with the Pine Weasel was a bit overboard as well but I actually enjoyed that.  Ian Buchanan’s performance saved that bit for me.  Plus, wealthy environmentalists tend to be kind of smug so it’s always fun to see them satirized.

Up until this episode, I’ve had mixed feeling about Windom Earle but his scene with Donna was brilliantly creepy.

Tomorrow, we have “On the Wings of Love.”

Previous Entries in The TSL’s Look At Twin Peaks:

  1. Twin Peaks: In the Beginning by Jedadiah Leland
  2. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.1 — The Pilot (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  3. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.2 — Traces To Nowhere (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  4. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.3 — Zen, or the Skill To Catch A Killer (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  5. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.4 “Rest in Pain” (dir by Tina Rathbone) by Leonard Wilson
  6. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.5 “The One-Armed Man” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Jedadiah Leland
  7. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.6 “Cooper’s Dreams” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  8. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.7 “Realization Time” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  9. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.8 “The Last Evening” (directed by Mark Frost) by Leonard Wilson
  10. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.1 “May the Giant Be With You” (dir by David Lynch) by Leonard Wilson
  11. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.2 “Coma” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  12. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.3 “The Man Behind The Glass” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Jedadiah Leland
  13. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.4 “Laura’s Secret Diary” (dir by Todd Holland) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  14. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.5 “The Orchid’s Curse” (dir by Graeme Clifford) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  15. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.6 “Demons” (dir by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson
  16. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.7 “Lonely Souls” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  17. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.8 “Drive With A Dead Girl” (dir by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  18. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.9 “Arbitrary Law” (dir by Tim Hunter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  19. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.10 “Dispute Between Brothers” (directed by Tina Rathbone) by Jedadiah Leland
  20. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.11 “Masked Ball” (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Leonard Wilson
  21. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.12 “The Black Widow” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Leonard Wilson
  22. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.13 “Checkmate” (directed by Todd Holland) by Jedadiah Leland
  23. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.14 “Double Play” (directed by Uli Edel) by Jedadiah Leland
  24. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.15 “Slaves and Masters” (directed by Diane Keaton) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  25. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.16 “The Condemned Woman” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson

 

Film Review: Fifty Shades Darker (dir by James Foley)


The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy is shaping up to be the cinematic equivalent of a twitter parody account.

That’s the conclusion that I reached today after my BFF Evelyn and I watched the second part of the trilogy, Fifty Shades Darker.  Since we had both read the book, we weren’t shocked when Fifty Shades Darker turned out to be a bad movie.  Hell, we weren’t surprised when Fifty Shades of Grey turned out to be bad, either.  Each subsequent book was worst than the one that came before it so, when the film version of Fifty Shades Freer is released next year, it should be the worst of all.

Still, nothing could have prepared us for the amount of laugh-out-loud moments and odd details that were offered up in Fifty Shades Darker.  Consider just a few:

Having broken up with Christian “I’m fifty shades of fucked up” Grey at the end of the previous film, Ana Steele (Dakota Johnson, doing penance in the hope of being sprung from Purgatory) is now working for a hip and trendy Seattle publishing company!  How do we know that it’s hip and trendy?  Well, it’s in Seattle and it’s called Seattle Independent Publishing!  (As opposed to Seattle Corporate Press.)  Her boss, Jack (Eric Hyde) leers at her in a style that basically screams, “Lifetime movie villain!”  There’s a scene in which Ana tells her editors that they should be making more of an attempt to reach readers in the “18-24 demographic” and everyone reacts as if this is the first time that they’ve ever heard about this concept.  You half expect someone to say, “18 to 24 year olds!  WHY DIDN’T WE THINK OF THAT!?”  Seriously, after seeing this, I’m going to send my resume to the Dallas Observer, along with a note that says, “18-24.  Hire me for more info.”

When Christian (poor Jamie Dornan, who I’m pretty sure was trying to blink out an S.O.S. signal at certain points in the film) and Ana first reunite, it’s to attend an art show.  Ana’s artist friend has filled an entire gallery with photos of Ana, the majority of which resemble the “sexy” photos that Darcy posted to her MyRoom page in that very special episode of Degrassi.  Christian buys all the pictures because he can’t handle the idea of anyone else having Ana on their wall.  This obsessive and controlling act is just enough to apparently make Ana reconsider her decision to dump Christian because he was being too obsessive and controlling.

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Christian eventually confesses to Ana that he’s only attracted to women who look like his mother and he punishes them because he’s angry with her.  “Oh, Christian, your Oedipal complex is so sexy,” Ana coos.  Okay, she doesn’t say that.  I said that and then Evelyn said something that I can’t repeat.  And then we laughed and laughed.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know that everyone has their issues and God knows, I’ve got a few myself.  But the minute a guy tells me that he’s only dating me because I look like his mother, that’s the minute I leave.

When Christian tells Ana about his messed up childhood, Ana responds by drawing on his chest with lipstick.  And I swear, that lipstick remains on his chest — without a smudge — for at least a few days.  Every time we would catch a glimpse of those perfect lipstick markings on Christian’s chest, Evelyn and I would start laughing.  I mean, drawing on your partner (or having your partner draw on you) can be fun but most people wash it off after a while.

(Incidentally, when the Scary Movie people get around to parodying this movie, you know that the lipstick scene is going to be recreated.)

Christian’s childhood bedroom is decorated with a poster of Vin Diesel.  When Christian is pouring out his heart, Vin Diesel is glowering in the background.  It would have been neat if the poster had suddenly come to life.  Perhaps Vin could have suddenly appeared in the bedroom and said, “Someday … BUT NOT TODAY!”

And I’m not even going to talk about the Ben Wa balls.

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Anyway, there’s really not much of a plot in Fifty Shades Darker.  Ana gets back together with Christian but says that she wants to have a “vanilla” relationship.  Christian agrees but he still keeps doing controlling stuff, like buying Ana’s company and freezing her bank account.  Ana gets mad.  Ana breaks up with him.  They get back together.  This happens a few times.  Christian tells Ana to stay away from a man.  Ana gets upset but then the man tries to rape her which feels like the film’s way of putting her in her place for doubting Christian’s instincts when it comes to men.  Kim Basinger pops up as the woman who introduced Christian to BDSM and tells Ana that Christian will never be happy in a vanilla relationship.  Ana says that vanilla is her favorite ice cream.  Here’s my thing: why can’t Ana come up with a more complimentary term than “vanilla” to describe her relationship goals?  I mean, Ana’s clever.  She came up with that whole 18-24 thing, after all.

There’s also a crazy woman (Bella Heathcote) who shows up occasionally.  We know she’s crazy because she’s dressed like someone who lives in an abandoned subway tunnel.  She occasionally grabs Ana and says, “I’m nobody!”  Hmmm….I wonder what that’s about…

(Well, don’t wonder too much.  There’s not a single mystery or question in Fifty Shades Darker that isn’t solved a scene or two after it’s raised.)

One of the redeeming things about Fifty Shades of Grey is that neither Dakota Johnson nor director Sam Taylor-Johnson seemed to be taking it all that seriously.  Dakota would pause meaningfully before delivering the worst of her dialogue, a sign that even she couldn’t believe what she was about to say.  Meanwhile, Sam Taylor-Johnson’s direction suggested that she found the story to be just as ludicrous and stupid as everyone else.  However, Fifty Shades Darker is directed by James Foley.  Foley is a veteran director, one who has been making films since before I was born.  He does a workmanlike job and you can almost hear him shouting, “Now, where’s my paycheck!?” during certain scenes.  Under Foley’s direction, there’s no winking at the audience.  There’s no hints of subversion.  Foley’s direction is very literal and more than a little dull.  He was hired to direct a big-budget version of a Chanel No. 5 commercial and that’s exactly what he does.

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The other big issue with Fifty Shades Darker is that Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan have very little romantic chemistry.  They both look good naked but that’s about it.  Jamie looks miserable to be there and Dakota seems to be trying to keep herself amused.  The lack of chemistry was less of a problem in Fifty Shades of Grey.  In that film, all that mattered was that Christian was rich and hot and Ana didn’t really haven’t anything better to do.  But, in Fifty Shades Darker, we’re asked to believe that they’re actually deeply in love and … no, it just doesn’t work.

Evelyn and I laughed through the entire movie.  In the past, we’ve gotten in trouble for doing this because we do have a tendency to get a little bit loud.  However, nobody in the audience seemed to mind.

Anyway, Fifty Shades Freer will be coming out next year.  Hopefully, someone will read this review and work my idea about the Vin Diesel cameo into the film.

Seriously, it would be great!

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Guilty Pleasure No. 14: Fear (dir by James Foley)


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After I wrote my review of Horror of Dracula, I started thinking about all of the cinematic bad boys that I have known and loved.  There’s just something undeniably exciting about having a good-looking psycho obsessing over you!

That leads us to today’s guilty pleasure.  First released in 1996 and a mainstay on cable, Fear is one of the ultimate bad boy psycho films.

Fear tells the story of what happens when 16 year-old Nicole (played by Reese Witherspoon) meets and falls for David (Mark Wahlberg), a polite young man who happens to be crazy.

The first half of the film actually makes a pretty good case for hooking up with a bad boy.  David treats Nicole like a princess, encourages her to break curfew, fingerfucks her on a roller coaster in a scene that makes fingerfucking seem as romantic as anything you’ll find in a Nicholas Sparks novel, and finally sneaks into her house so he can take her virginity.

These scenes capture the appeal of a bad boy — the feeling of danger, the thrill of rebellion, and, most poignantly, that feeling that only you can truly understand what a prince you have discovered.  Witherspoon and Wahlberg are especially good in these scenes, with Witherspoon perfectly capturing the wide-eyed thrill of being in love while Wahlberg is the epitome of every guy in high school that I should not have dated but did.

There’s one small moment that hints at what is going to come.  While talking to Nicole’s dad, Steven (played, with characteristic intensity, by William Petersen), David orders Nicole to get him a drink, causing the overprotective Stephen to glance up with a look of sudden suspicion.  It’s a well-acted and subtle scene, one that will feel painfully real to anyone who has ever been in a similar situation.

It’s shortly after that scene that the entire film basically goes crazy.

fear-mark-wahlbergAfter David catches Nicole’s best friend giving her an innocent hug, David responds by going crazy and beating him up.  Nicole dumps David but then, largely as a response to her father being overprotective, she decides to give him a second chance.

Steven confronts David and orders him to stay away from his daughter.  In an oddly hilarious scene, David responded by robotically beating his chest until he’s apparently covered with bruises.  It’s a totally over-the-top scene that pretty much lets us know that Fear is no longer interested in being a realistic portrait of a naive girl dating an abusive guy.

Chest Beating

Suddenly, we discover that David isn’t just a jerk with anger issues.  Instead, he’s some sort of teenage crime lord, who lives in a dilapidated mansion with his equally low-life friends.  While Nicole is busy writing Nicole Luvs David on her notebook, David is selling crack and having sex with her best friend Margo (played by, believe it or not, Alyssa Milano).

But that’s not all!  When Nicole dumps David for a second time, David responds by tattooing her name on his chest and then gathering together his minions so that they can lay siege to Steven’s mountainside home.

“Don’t worry,” Steven tells his wife (Amy Brenneman), “I’m not going to let anyone get in here.”

And so, in that moment, Fear goes from being every girl’s fantasy of finding her misunderstood prince to being every parent’s fantasy — not only is Steven proven right about his daughter’s boyfriend but he also gets to kick his ass.

Watching Fear is an odd experience.  The film starts out being romantic, well-acted, and, at times, even achingly poignant until, suddenly, it turns into one of the most over-the-top home invasion films ever made.  It makes for an oddly schizophrenic viewing experience and it also makes this film into a true guilty pleasure.

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