Friday, April 11, 2008

The Life Before Her Eyes


Since director Vadim Perelman directed one of my favorite films: The House of Sand and Fog, and (in my opinion), translated the book beautifully to film - I had hopes that The Life Before Her Eyes would be just as lovely. Unfortunately, it was not.

Young Diana (Evan Rachel Wood, portraying a great range of lush emotion) is a typical teenage wild child, testing the limits of her small town with sex and drugs while her tamer, religious friend Maureen (Eva Amurri - who bears a more striking resemblance to her mother every day) helps her through her tumultuous life choices. When a Columbine-like massacre erupts at their high school, it leaves the two girls forever changed.
Fifteen years later, as the anniversary and memorial of the massacre approaches, an older Diana (Uma Thurman) is trying to cope with her memories of the event. Despite her now perfect life - she's got the big, beautiful house, the fulfilling job, a precocious daughter and a handsome, smart husband - Diana has a secret that's starting to unravel and disrupt her happiness.
There's nothing inherently wrong with the performances in this movie; Thurman uses her giant, sad eyes to effectively convey the effects of trauma; Wood uses her growing acting experience fantastically, and it was nice to see Amurri play "the good girl", but even powerful acting can't save this film from its weaknesses.
Saying that the director is a little too heavy-handed with his use of flashbacks would be putting it lightly. While they're necessary to make us familiar with Diana's past, it's not necessary to constantly repeat the same flashback over and over - in other words, I get what you're showing/revealing to us, you don't need to hit me over the head with it. In addition to the repeats, there's an added montage at the end when "the secret" is revealed in order to throw the clues back in the face of the audience. Honestly, it felt really overdone, leaving me feeling empty and disappointed.
Having not read the book, I can only hope the story was better presented on the page. In fact, I'm a little sad I didn't read the book first, because I could see the potential for the story to be interesting and thought-provoking.
I could give you an example of a film that handled a similar theme in a MUCH better way, but I'd ruin the ending for those of you who are interested in seeing this - and I don't believe in giving away endings,AePeven if I think they're unsatisfactory. :)
The Life Before Her Eyes opens April 18th (Limited Release).

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