14 April 2010

The Others

Only two years after The Sixth Sense comes another movie with a big famous twist ending, an ending so similar it's almost impossible not to compare the two films -- especially when you watch them only a couple of days apart. The reason The Sixth Sense works, ultimately, isn't because its twist is clever. In fact, the handling of the twist in The Others is cleverer, for what it's worth. No, the reason The Sixth Sense works is because I care about the characters and the story being told. I like Cole and Dr. Crowe and Cole's mom. They are nice people who've suffered, and I want them all to find the things they're looking for. I never feel that way about Grace, Anne or Nicholas in The Others. I never even come close.

Look, I'm pretty forgiving about characters, and I know that once it's all revealed there's a "good reason" for it, but it doesn't change for a second that these are all unbearable, ice-cold, emotional-uncanny-valley half-persons from the very beginning, nasty to the servants and nasty to each other, and that sours the journey for me. Every moment spent with Nicole Kidman was an exercise in endurance and patience. The only actress with personality was child actress Alakina Mann, but she was more precocious than likable. I get why you give me these mysteriously dead-eyed people, but I don't get why you might think I'd enjoy them.

Here's my SPOILER to a nine-year-old film: I quite like the idea of watching ghosts who don't understand that they're doing the haunting, but everything about the reveal and the long monotonous series of clues we go through to get there killed the fun of it for me. Knowing there was a puzzle to solve makes it easy to see the end. I don't think that's to the film's fault, per se. (Husband Charles shows up around an hour in; if by that point you're still in the dark, well, it's not because the filmmakers were keeping you there.) But you've failed me -- the audience -- when it feels like a task to trudge through your story. The bottom line is, this movie didn't work for me. For my money, The Others was neither creepy or scary. It was tedious. I haven't checked the clock this many times in one movie in a long time.

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