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Monday, September 2, 2013


Photo courtesy of EOne Films

2013, 102 minutes
Rated R for sexual content, language and some violence

Review by Joshua Handler

There are some movies that are just terrible and are painful to sit through, there are some movies that are so terrible they're good, but there are also some other movies that are terrible yet not painful to sit through.  Brian De Palma's Passion falls in that latter category.  It is really awful in every respect, save for the cinematography by Almodóvar collaborator José Luis Alcaine, but unlike other horrid 2013 films like The Purge and Movie 43, Passion isn't a chore to sit through.  

Passion is a remake of Alain Corneau's final film Love Crime, and tells the story of two businesswomen (Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace) who spin a web of betrayal and desire.  

De Palma is a filmmaker who has made some great films like Blow Out and Carrie, but often his melodramatic tendencies emerge, even in great films like those.  I will admit, I enjoy much of Scarface, but I think it is a terrible movie.  It is melodramatic, overacted, and one hour too long.  The same can be said about Passion except for the last part.  Passion isn't too long.  It is just a melodramatic, overacted, borderline incoherent mess.  

The last act of Passion is completely ridiculous and adds insult to injury, as it throws in so many fever dream sequences in a row that it becomes incomprehensible.  The dialogue, at times, reminded me of The Room in its ability to be both painfully obvious and unintentionally funny.  

Pino Donaggio, a frequent De Palma composer, does the movie no favors with his score.  The score not only overemphasizes the melodrama, but also is very outdated.  I was never a fan of his scores for '70s and '80s De Palma films like Carrie and Blow Out, but in Passion, his score is worse than ever.  It would have fit in a '70s De Palma, not a 2010s one.  

Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace give in stiff performances, but much of this is due to the material that they are given to work with.  McAdams is usually good, and Rapace is usually excellent, particularly in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Prometheus, but because the dialogue the actresses are given is so bad and because De Palma's direction isn't up to par, their performances are subpar.

José Luis Alcaine's cinematography, though, is gorgeous.  Evoking the cool, icy look of Hitchcock films and early De Palma pictures, Alcaine's cinematography is the film's one highlight.  The lighting makes great use of shadows and makes a substantial contribution to the story.

Finally, while Passion is a bad film, it isn't awful to sit through because it is trashy and somewhat engaging.  There is a certain amount of amusement to be had listening to De Palma's embarrassingly bad dialogue ("Well I used to want to be admired...well now I want to be loved") and watching the faux-provocative scenes play out.

Overall, Passion is a passionless De Palma film with some style, but no substance.  This is best for hardcore De Palma fans.  While some may be entertained, more will be infuriated by the last 30 or so minutes of the film in addition to the terrible acting, direction, and screenplay.  


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