Film review: Passion

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 March, 2013, 9:08am

Starring Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace, Karoline Herfurth
Director: Brian De Palma
Category: IIB

Let's be clear, the half star grade is for Passion's merit as a film. However, if you enjoy trashy kitsch so stupefyingly bad it is entertainingly good, Brian De Palma's latest fetish thriller is a ripe, aromatic cheese of a Showgirls piquancy.

A veteran director long acknowledged for his lurid Hitchcock pastiches that splatter sex, violence and identity confusion across the screen, De Palma's Passion begins as one of his most restrained mise-en-scène films, but ends up as perhaps his silliest effort. That's quite an achievement for someone whose hit and miss pulp productions include Dressed to Kill, Femme Fatale and Body Double.

A remake of the 2010 French film Love Crime, Passion starts out like All About Eve set in the corporate advertising world. An ambitious female executive steals her protégé's ideas in order to get ahead, even though there's an undercurrent of sexual attraction between the two women. Meanwhile, they're both sleeping with the same man. Eventually, professional turns really personal as deceit, revenge and spurned lesbians go bat crazy in a way that is epic, absurd and shamtastic!

Just how awesomely awful is this thing? Let's see: there's blondie Rachel McAdams (above with Noomi Rapace) with her girl-next-door dimples and smile as Christine, possibly cinema's least convincing femme fatale and bitch boss. Especially laughable is when the star of The Notebook and The Time Traveler's Wife rips open her own tacky sequined blouse and cries sexual harassment against another woman. Then there is Noomi Rapace, who portrayed Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish-made The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo film trilogy, who apparently chose to leave her acting talents back in Sweden thinking this was a camp soap opera (which it sort of is) where no reaction is too exaggerated, especially when her Isabelle James character can do an insane Joan Crawford laugh when her superior publicly ridicules her in front of co-workers.

As a German-French financed production, the film is set in Berlin. Yet the German cops are talking to each other in English with a British accent. Other lazy and inane plot contrivances include an anonymously leaked ad campaign that immediately receives five million online hits and the world's most clueless domestic dropping off of dry-cleaning, which happens to be key evidence, while not noticing her employer is in jail for murder.

Best - or should we say, worst - of all, there's De Palma getting his stylistic mojo on when the intrigue gets its juices flowing. Every shot is tilted at an angle, every room suddenly has venetian blinds throwing exaggerated shadows across people's faces and every note of Pino Donaggio's score sounds like a tribute to bad Italian horror movies.

Finally, what better way to mess with your disoriented and confused viewers, especially when the plot is flying off the handle both in terms of logic and believability, than to excuse everything previously as a dream sequence? It's the best get out of jail free card there is, especially when your character is in jail. Sadly, there's no such escape for the audience.

Andrew Sun

Passion opens today