Right off the bat, Mickey Keating's latest film Darling shows real
promise. For starters, it is visually stunning: the lighting, set
design and black and white cinematography (while imitative) are truly
impressive. His shot compositions of New York City even rival Woody
Allen's famous, yet overrated opening of "Manhattan. It's undeniable
that Keating and company know their craft pretty well, and that has to
be applauded. However, the overall end product is lacking in many
crucial areas for me, particularly its narrative trajectory and plot,
which borrow heavily (I use that word kindly) from early Polanski's
"Apartment Trilogy",among other films in the "female losing grip on
reality" (i.e. Carnival of Souls) subgenre. Obviously, anybody who has
been schooled in these films can clearly see that Keating's effort is
really just a modern, pimped-out mashup, but with a pretentious,
student film-like execution that lacks a unique vision or a genuine
exploration into the pathology of it's lead character. In other words,
Darling looks great, but gives audiences very little to process.
I could have forgiven the film's plagiaristic nature if it had something authentic, unique, or timely to say about its hinted-at themes of isolation, female sexual repression, mental illness, urban alienation, or anything for that matter -but it doesn't. The film is an exercise in style and, well, literally nothing else. I am not convinced Keating has any idea who his main character is, or truly even cares; she is merely a prop (admittedly a very lovely one). Instead of giving audiences any type of backstory, Keating relies on the now-exhausted "descent into madness" theme; borrowing heavily from films such as 1980's The Shining's exploration of the murky area between mental and metaphysical chaos.
However, here this approach is really just used as a lazy device to demonstrate Keating's technical virtuosity, while allowing him to exercise his giddiness over the entire filmmaking process. However, the filmmaker's ego ultimately compromises the integrity of the film, rendering it a hollow shell devoid of meaningful content.
In addition to its shallow and derivative vibe, Keating's film is hampered by a seriously flawed and unconvincing portrayal of Darling herself, played by the purportedly budding indie "star" Lauren Ashley Carter. Without beating around the bush, I can only say that Carter's performance simply belies any credibility and comes across as wooden, self-aware, and curiously arrogant. I couldn't help but imagine her trying to stay in character, while making a valiant attempt to adhere to Keating's rigid physical instructions, with a "step-by-step" dutifulness (literally, it seemed like she was walking an invisible tightrope the whole time). Watching her, I got the sense that Keating was directing her based on shot construction and lighting schemes rather than character development/arc or story advancement.
After watching Keating's film I was compelled to go back and reflect on specific scenes from the films that clearly inspired it. Remembering Catherine Deneuve in "Repulsion", Candace Hilligoss in "Carnival of Souls", or more recently, Angela Betis in 2002's underrated "May"- I couldn't deny the undeniably stark contrast between the craft and depth of those memorable performances and Carter's here. It became clearer to me that there simply is no subtlety, nuance, or honesty in Carter's performance or Keating's film as a whole. Alas, Darling completely lacks the particular combination of originality and vision that made its progenitors so enduringly effective.
Instead, what we are left with is a series of random shots and jarring noise that are devoid of context or purpose. It's really too bad, because as mentioned earlier, Darling is a visual feast; and given a more original script, clarity of purpose, and effective lead, it might have been something truly inspired and influential in its own right.
Horror / Thriller
Horror / Thriller
An enigmatic Madame is in need of a caretaker to look after a house located downtown, however, this is no ordinary house. It is the oldest one in the city and in addition to that, riddled with unpleasant stories of occult origins and rumours of hauntings. With such a reputation, many would flee, but this lovely caretaker is up to the job, even though right from the beginning, peculiar occurrences started to manifest in the mansion's long corridors and odd sounds have begun to permeate the empty rooms. Why is that room at the end of the hallway, off limits? And how is she ever going to rid herself of the ever-growing voices inside her head?
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October 01, 2017 at 10:03 AM