It has been a long time since Brian De Palma has given us a truly good movie. At one time, he was considered the finest filmmaker to plagiarize Alfred Hitchcock, but he has long-since descended into mediocrity.
Where does his new offering, ‘Passion’, fit into his filmography?
Isabelle (Noomi Rapace) is a rising star at an advertising firm. Her boss, Christine (Rachel McAdams) had made it her mission to suppress her subordinate’s success as revenge for Isabelle’s affair with Christine’s lover, Dirk (Paul Anderson). During a meeting with the CEO of the company, Christine takes credit for Isabelle’s ingenious idea for an advertising campaign. Isabelle’s assistant, Dani (Karoline Herfurth) urges her boss to take Christine down and to be more assertive.
Thus begins an escalating back and forth between the women in their professional struggle for one-upsmanship. This all culminates in Christine’s untimely murder. All eyes are on Isabelle and she must struggle to prove her innocence before everything is taken away from her.
Much like ‘Femme Fatale’, this fancies itself an erotic thriller. Unlike that movie, ‘Obsession’ doesn’t feature any unintentionally comedic, over-the-top scenes that try to evoke titillation. It does try to be sexy, but comes off as flat and uninterested in exploring this angle. Every action here is a calculated move to manipulate or extort another person. There is hardly any genuine passion in this story.
The pacing on this movie is also way off. The first hour plus of the story is pure set-up which is entirely too long. The synopsis above might make the story sound like it moves along quickly but it takes so long for the raising of the stakes to happen and for Christine to actually be killed. By the time something substantial happens and the few familiar moments of tension and creative camera angles come into play, most audiences will have had their patience tested beyond forgiveness. Very little of these early scenes contain many details of consequence outside of establishing the relationships of the characters.
In this hyperactive climax, there are shots where De Palma repeats brief moments that worked well in some of his other works. Stylistically, it’s entertaining in a campy way and tries to undo the snooze-fest though some of the surprises in store are infuriating. So many little details presented late in the story are thrown back onto the table during this time which would have been more rewarding if things hadn’t been so rushed and if the first two-thirds of the movie had been used a little more economically.
McAdams and Rapace are alright and Herfurth adds an interesting wrinkle to the story, but the male characters are rather broadly-written. You’ll see. Dirk is a real gem.
Special features include: interviews with De Palma, McAdams and Rapace along with a theatrical trailer.
‘Passion’ does very little to disprove the assertion that De Palma has lost his edge. A few glimpses of past suspenseful glories remain but these sequences are short-lived.
If you want to see him at his best, just watch his work from the 70’s and 80’s.
Rated R 104 minute 2013