Kodiak Daily Mirror - Stage and Screen Weisz role wins little sympathy
  
Stage and Screen: Weisz role wins little sympathy
May 10, 2012 | 37 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I can’t recall the last time I saw two perfectly lackluster films in the same weekend. I’m here to tell you that it happened last weekend. Film No. 1 was “The Deep Blue Sea” (2011) and the second disappointment was John le Carré’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (2011).

We had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of “Tinker Tailor” and couldn’t wait to get it into the DVD player. While I had enjoyed “The Tailor of Panama” (2001) and “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” (1965), I could not make it all the way through le Carré’s latest film. The story is convoluted (not totally out of character for his stories) and so ponderous that this tale of Cold War intrigue left me as afebrile as the war it chronicled. The smart cast, which included Toby Jones, Gary Oldman and John Hurt, was insufficient to rescue this ripped-from-the-1960s-headlines tale of international intrigue and double-dealing.

Now, “The Deep Blue Sea.” When the most memorable line in a movie is “Love is wiping someone’s ass and allowing them to keep their dignity,” the film is fatally flawed. Hester Collyer (Rachael Weisz) is the young, strikingly beautiful wife of Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale), a very successful post-World War II lawyer and judge. Sir William is clearly older than Hester and is completely dominated by his controlling and repugnant mother (Barbara Jefford.) Hester’s and William’s marriage lacks the spark of physical attraction.

Hester has taken up with ne’er-do-well fighter pilot Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston) and informed the good Lord Collyer of her obsession with the more sexually attractive eye candy fly-boy.

Hester’s problems are numerous. Sex is her principal motivator. Motivators two, three and four are her self-centeredness. Hester is a shallow woman — so shallow that she cannot see that her less sexually appealing husband may be the better bet for her future in war-torn England than her hard-drinking, going nowhere fast boyfriend.

Hester is so blinded by her obsession with Page that she fails to properly evaluate her alternate future. True to the song “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” Freddie represents the devil, and Hester’s misconception of the beauty of her relationship with Page is the “Deep Blue Sea.” Hester is a single-minded person with little perspective. She is blinded by her sexual obsession and self-centeredness.

Hester resorts to the most banal of ploys to keep the attention of her paramour. One such gambit is a failed suicide attempt using pills and gas. She employs unfitting histrionics when Freddie apparently forgets her birthday. She’ll do anything to continue her liaison with Freddie. After all, it’s all about Hester.

The fact that lust and love are not inevitably two sides of the same coin doesn’t reverberate with Hester. Mrs. Elton (Ann Mitchell,) Freddie Page’s landlord, is surprisingly accepting of co-habitation in 1950s England and simply requests that Hester (someone else’s wife) keep a low profile while living in Freddie’s flat.

Late in the story, Mrs. Elton is drawn away from a conversation with Hester to tend to her own terminally-ill husband. Hester witnesses Elton’s loving attention to her blithering, incontinent spouse, but misses the significance of true love under trying circumstances.

It is at this poignant moment that Mrs. Elton utters the line “love is wiping someone’s ass and allowing them to keep their dignity.” This is an sentiment that the superficial Hester will likely never appreciate.

While some reviewers have praised “The Deep Blue Sea,” I cannot. Rachael Weisz is convincing in a portrayal that is sexually tense and very needy. The sets are dark, the characters are dark and the story sheds little light on the complexities of misspent physical and emotional energy.

True, the context is war-ravaged London. True, life is replete with the horrors of incessant night-time bombing. True, Hester’s marriage is less than fulfilling. True, Hester’s mother-in-law is disparaging.

Most true, however; Hester is out of touch with healthy emotion. After all, it’s all about Hester.

Sadly, Hester doesn’t have the emotional wherewithal to put her life on course.

Bernard A. Karshmer is a professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. He is a past chair of the Denver Film Society and International Film Festival and currently chairs the Denver County Cultural Council.

Bernard A. Karshmer is a professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. He is a past chair of the Denver Film Society and International Film Festival and currently chairs the Denver County Cultural Council.
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