A far cry from the consistent critical glory of Sundance contemporaries like Kelly Reichardt and Debra Granik – or even the sporadic critical glory of Lisa Cholodenko or Ira Sachs – and not to be confused with the choreographed duo. play Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Shari. Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini forged one of the toughest career paths in American independent film.
In the nearly two decades since the 2003 breakthrough American Splendor, nothing they did close to fulfill that first prank promise. Attempts have included a lofty mistake (Nanny Diary); an amusing fit comedy starring Kristen Wiig in hot mess mode (Most likely a girl); a grueling exercise in tweeness (Extra man); and a small adaptation of an acclaimed teen novel (Ten Thousand Saints).
Things Heard and Seen
A neo-Gothic freak isn’t weird enough.
Instead of cultivating the visual wit and emotional complexity that has created American Splendor With such treatment, Berman and Pulcini have gravitated toward a sort of shrug-worthy indie-ish mastery that, on average, creates stories of quirks and outsiders but smooths out the rougher edges and turns clutter into elegant packages. Even their stronger outings – Cinema Veritea 2011 HBO television series about the making of the PBS documentary/reality series An American family, for example – leaves the impression of quickly skimmed surfaces rather than deeply sunken surfaces. The pacing, tone control, and command of their all-star cast vary from film to film, but most of Berman and Pulcini’s work stuck on that annoying spectrum. strong.
I wish I could say that they broke the blah record in their neo-Gothic Netflix The things that have been heard and seen, which shows the pair tackling a different genre – supernatural horror – with casual professionalism but without the obvious passion or purpose. Adapted from the 2016 novel by Elizabeth Brundage All the things that no longer appear, a 1980s film that follows an art historian couple (Amanda Seyfried and James Norton) from Manhattan to the Hudson Valley, where the marriage of both and the homebuilder they bought begins to take its toll signs… dysfunction. This is the latest in a long line of films about women who are unmasked by sinister forces never seen before and seen in abundance, in the form of aggressive, scornful husbands (from the classics like, duh, Gaslight and Rosemary’s Baby to less distinct examples such as What lies below?, mom! and more recently by Seyfried You should leave).
Things Heard and Seen very watchable, with an effective run of about 40 minutes or so of character building on the foundation of Seyfried’s sympathetic acting. But Berman and Pulcini’s failure to create suspense becomes more of an issue in the second half, shifting to a standard marital thriller with some half-hearted ghost stories and feminist elements thrown in. enter. It’s an odd match of script (adapted by Berman and Pulcini) that’s so obvious, telegraphs instead of teasing its twists and turns and too timid direction; one gets the feeling that the filmmakers are removing genre gimmicks and tricks from a list instead of looking to invest them with chills or shivers.
The film opens with a note of nice macabre. A man (Norton) pulls into the garage of a ramshackle country house only to have blood splatter on the windshield – and then, as he steps out of the car, his face . He looked up, realizing that a crimson leak was emitting from the ceiling. A few photos later, he is running towards the camera with a baby girl in his arms.
We flash back six months to a party hosted by a man, George Claire, and his wife, Catherine (Seyfried), at their New York City apartment. Studying golden boy George has accepted a teaching position at an emerging liberal arts university, where the two will move in with their young daughter Franny (Ana Sophia Heger). Catherine is giving up work restoring religious murals, which she seems to be fine with – though glimpses of her bleaching pastry stains, she only allows herself to hint at a darkness below peaceful light in her house.
George chooses a home under construction to buy – Karen Allen is always welcome as a friendly local real estate agent – and spends the day on campus while Catherine busily renovates. Each is also attracted to a younger object of lust: Catherine is attached to a lustful gangster Eddie (Alex Neustaedter), who, in one of the film’s few truly mind-blowing images, first seen from behind, staring at the house with his younger brother Cole (Jack Gore); George shamelessly flirts with Eddie’s charming friend Willis (Strange things’ Natalia Dyer). The uneasy dynamic between transplants and ponies (or “rich weekenders” and “full-timers,” as Catherine’s friend quips) is one of the provocative themes. to which the filmmakers nodded without pursuing.
Before long, things would get messy at night — or, in this case, lights in the house flashing, radios on and off, and a smell of gas wafting from the basement into the bedroom. Catherine finds a bizarrely annotated book and an abandoned wedding ring. The townspeople murmured as she revealed her new address. And what about an old woman who frequently appears in the corner of the frame, a presence only slightly more spooky than an oversized crow slamming through a window one day?
Meanwhile, Catherine begins to turn away from absent-minded, distracted George, and toward her brash, confident co-worker Justine (Rhea Seehorn, sly). Justine’s sister’s encouragement of Catherine’s autonomy is far more interesting than a side story revolving around George’s department head (F. Murray Abraham, aka F. Murray Abraham), who keeps talking about home. Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg.
Springer and Berman juggle different pieces fluently, but struggled to overcome the script’s structural problems – namely, the scarcity of tension and the lack of sharp perspective.. Things Heard and Seen soon revealed: It was clear who the killer was, and any doubts we had about Catherine’s mental and emotional state were all but dispelled less than an hour after someone confirmed that, yes, haunted house. So we spend the rest of the movie waiting for the inevitable to transition.
The screenwriter-directors could have pushed things forward by getting more attached to Catherine – and in doing so, allowed some fear and mystery to ripen around George. Seyfried certainly completed the quest. The actress didn’t need to mock Catherine’s tremors or transform her face into a Munch-like mask of terror; with those worried wide eyes, she was a born scream queen. Unfortunately, the movie often skips Catherine to tag along with George in his poor exploits. And Norton (Happy Valley, Little woman), is a man who, after years of eroding handsomeness and charm, finds his narcissism catching up, giving it away too soon; George is so transparent that he never threatens.
Berman and Pulcini also don’t seem interested in scaring us, or even making us nervous. Theoretically, their refusal to rely on cheap scares or shocking cutscenes is admirable, but the horror visuals here give off a perfunctory feel and horrifying moments. Surprises come and go with a hint of flair or emphasis. (Nothing in the film approaches the vivid nightmare of Netflix’s 2018 apparitions The Haunting of Hill Housefor example.) Things Heard and Seen flows, but never stops to enjoy the pleasure of startling us, straining our nerves, or toying with our expectations.
It’s a shame that as a story about a woman waking up to the fact that her man is an A-class bad guy, the film created a timely fascination. In one of the strongest scenes, when Catherine and George are stoned driving home from dinner, she looks terrified as he puts on a master class in toxic masculinity – speeding just to freaked her out, groped her breasts, mocked her. Catherine’s repressed resentment and growing disgust for her husband are the compelling core points that the film frequently overlooks. Things Heard and Seen shows us a marriage in which mistrust crept in to fill the void left by lack of love – a horror we hear and see, all right, but never feel in our bones.
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