"John Skillpa, a quiet bank clerk living in tiny Peacock, Nebraska, prefers to live an invisible life. This might have to do with John's secret: he has another personality no one knows about, a woman, named Emma,who each morning does his chores and cooks him breakfast before he starts his day. Then, in a moment, everything changes. A train caboose runs off its tracks and crashes into John's backyard and destroys more than the weathered planks of his wood fence. When neighbors descend on the scene, they discover Emma for the first time and mistakenly believe her to be John's wife. This launches John into the glare of the spotlight and eventually shatters the delicate balance of his sanity. He must then fool the town into believing him and his alter ego are man and wife. But a young struggling single mother, Maggie, knows John's secret and holds the key to his past and sparks a battle between the personalities."
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, Susan Sarandon, Bill Pullman, Josh Lucas
Director: Michael Lander
The thing is, I've actually been waiting to see this movie for maybe two years. The cast, really, blew my mind. Cillian Murphy and Ellen Page teaming up for what was sure to be a precursor for the crazy-awesomeness of Inception. Susan Sarandon joining the party. An extremely Hitchcockian synopsis/trailer. The same composer as The Brother's Bloom, which, as we all know, had some bitchin' score. How could this not be the best thing ever?
And so then, a few weeks ago, I heard that this movie was going *DAHORROR!* Direct-to-DVD. But I was not deterred, nope, I soldiered through my initial wave of uneasiness, and awaited the day this sure-to-be forgotten beauty was popped into my computer for some fucking viewing.
Then, naturally, I forgot all about it until just today, when my Parental Unit and I went to the supermarket, because I have nothing else to do on a Saturday night, being a Mole-American and all. So, P.U. says "Hey! Let's go to the Redbox!", and suddenly wants to get Did You Hear About the Morgans?, and I'm all, sure, that's totally happening. And me and P.U., we're practically wrestling over the stupid thing, me desperately trying to press for Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and An Education and The Haunted Airman (I liked the original, okay? Shut up) and The Lovely Bones and Defendor, losing my shit over the fact that they're just a fucking dollar!, and then I see it. Cillian Murphy's nervous, swollen eyes staring at me like Patrick, and I know, motherfuckers, that must be mine. So I let P.U. get my sister New Moon, because she wants to see it for some reason, I politely recommend Lymelife, which I've also wanted to see, but not as rabidly. And then, lads and lassies, I pounce.
So, here we are. Almost three paragraphs and I haven't reviewed a goddamn thing, except my sudden war flashbacks. So, does Peacock live up to my expectations?
Well...yes and no. Yes, because despite it's cursed DTD banner, it's actually a solid, maybe-edgy if such a thing exists thriller. But no, because it's also slightly ridiculous.
See, we have Murphy, doing what he does best, cross dressing (his best performance was in Breakfast on Pluto, and you all know it). He's fantastic, I think, maybe one of his best performances. As John Skillpa, he's hunched, twitchy, his jaw constantly clenched and his neck always craned in, a guy who desperately avoids conversation, and just wants to remain in his low-key life forever. Then, he goes over to Emma, and strangely, he (Murphy) looks more like himself as her. His eyes are straightforward (with brown contacts), with no bags, his face is relaxed, always kind of glowing, his shoulders not as hunched. He talks with a slightly higher voice, wears a wig and dress and makeup, the whole thing, yet does not desire to be a woman. He is not really a cross dresser, he's a split personality. Now, this is when it gets into unabashed Norman Bates-territory. His mother, it's heavily implied (voice overs in the beginning, Emma herself, the traumatized confession of Ellen Page's Maggie, but we'll get to that later), was a reclusive woman, as the whole family has been, and had pretty much tortured John his whole life (again, most of it's implied). Then, a year before the movie starts, she dies, and the trauma makes John develop Emma. Simple, yeah?
Here was my main issue with the movie. How did nobody even suspect the altar ego conclusion? I mean, I get that at first, when the train comes in, nobody gets a good look at Emma. And, okay, it's the fifties, such a concept is unbelievable. But they look the same. Seriously, no prosthetics or anything. They hold themselves differently, Emma has the makeup and the dresses and the wig, but seriously.
Okay. Ellen Page, I think, is also very good as the single mother Maggie, who knows at least part of John's secret (the mom part--spoiler if I elaborated, but dude is it disturbing. Even by movie-standard mommy-issues, this is pretty fucked up). She's also very Canadian, her accent and whatnot (no joke, she actually says aboot). Susan Sarandon is fine, nothing really to do, as the wife of the mayor of Peacock, and runner of the local women's shelter, who seems to always have an agenda, and who's all up in Emma's business.
The score does help along the admittedly slow pace, but it's just silly, y'know, watching John freaking out like a toddler when confronted about anything to do with his 'wife', the train, or anything out of his norm. You are, though, literally watching him lose what semblance of a mind he's got left, so he's excused. Yet, he's also running around to thrilling music, panicking and worrying over what Emma's gonna do when he goes to sleep, he can't stop, because he's all about routine. And shit like that.
I don't know whether to call this overtly-serious, too-twisted-for-it's-own-good, or a genius piecee of psycho-thriller, a new take on the 'they're the same person!' twist. There's a heartbreaking conclusion, where you're still working out in your head exactly what just happened, and then, this new thing, no dialogue, just actions that are so very confusing until you realize, oh, wait, I get it! And then, it gets sadder.
The tension builds mostly from the fear that the town will discover John's secret (the Emma one), as well as what will happen when one discovers what the other left behind, as that's how they communicate--they leave notes, and after the train accident, they go about talking to people the other has, with a genuine shock when they find what they've been saying. It's a bit fascinating.
So, fine, that was a confusing and nonsensical review. But this is what happens when you review something five minutes after watching it, okay? Go rent it, because it's kind of brilliant, if you ignore everything, and I don't know why it got dumped DTD.