Socorro Movie Review: Orphan
Orphan (showing at the Loma at 9:30 nightly)
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard
Jaume Collet-Serra's latest effort comes as no surprise from the "House of Wax" (2005) director, offering a fairly limp thriller that doesn't deliver much in the way of thrills. The story revolves around a married couple (Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard), looking to adopt a child to replace their recently stillborn child. Esther (played almost competently by Isabelle Fuhrman) is the film's namesake, and performs well as the manipulative and psychotic orphan. But the bottom line is that this movie fails to deliver on any level; what little atmosphere Collet-Serra can muster, he completely wastes by making the character interactions totally inconsequential. The climax is unsurprisingly contrived, with a minor twist that left me scratching my head as to why the director even put it in, because it certainly did not add to the story.
There is a scene in the movie when the female protaganist's mother talks about "a moment of clarity" and I couldn't help but think the director should have had a "moment of clarity" when making this film. So many loose ends, and poorly developed aspects to this movie add up to what looks like lazy directing. The introduction was promising, reminding me some of the paranoia and helplessness of "Rosemary's Baby," but it then settles more into "Basic Instinct" territory as a standard thriller (with none of the suspense). I felt like Farmiga was doing her best Heather Mills impression (sans accent), and Sarsgaard seemed to be channeling Vince Vaughn (for no apparent reason). When a viewer is busy noticing these things, that's a bad sign for a film. Not surprisingly, Farmiga and Sarsgaard's two surviving children actually know what's going on, while Farmiga helplessly spins her wheels (everyone just figures she's slipped back in to alcoholism - one of those ill developed plot aspects that just annoyed me), with Sarsgaard shambling through scenes as the clueless father.
The one intriguing aspect to this film was the orphan's habit of painting pictures that looked one way in visible light, and another more sinister way in black light (and yes, I think Collet-Serra really felt like he was being cute, drawing parallel's with the orphan's own duality). Unfortunately this was used to explain the whole story in one scene, feeling like Collet-Serra figured his viewers had the IQ of a monkey. I'm sorry, that's not giving monkeys enough credit.
So, I would stay away from the movie. Far away. It's really got no redeeming value, and doesn't even have potential as a date movie.