Projections - Movie Reviews


Starring: Nicole Kidman, Cameron Bright, Danny Huston,
Lauren Bacall, Alison Elliot, Arliss Howard

Nicole Kidman is unafraid to tackle film projects like The Stepford Wives and now the controversial Jonathan Glazer one called Birth. How much Kidman’s Anna makes one convinced about what she’s going through will determine the extent of its cinematic and emotional reach. It seems like a more pretentious, elusive version of Ghost.  

This one is 180 degrees from Glazer’s funny and intense Sexy Beast that featured Ben Kingsley as a wicked British mobster. A posthumous voice-over has the camera following a man jogging in the snow and supposedly dying beneath a bridge. That man leaves Kidman’s Anna a widow and Glazer’s somewhat gloomy stream-of-consciousness moves forward 10 years later.

Anna lives an upper-class lifestyle in Manhattan with fine dresses and a nice urchin hairdo as she is engaged to Joseph (Danny Huston of Silver City). The chief tension comes from a 10-year-old boy, played by Cameron Bright of this year’s Butterfly Effect, who says at Anna’s engagement party that he is Sean-her dead husband.

He even appears at a birthday party of Anna’s upper-crust classy mother, a droll Lauren Bacall (who appears with Kidman in Dogville). Glazer seems challenged to stir up the mood as it all goes beyond a hoax and the boy’s collapse touches her in unexpected ways.

Kidman had much to offer the viewer her strong portrayal of a mother in The Others, which emitted the aura of gothic horror. But Birth, which showcases many reaction shots, has quite an understated internalization as it tries to approach a similar state. The Ocsar-winner has some bewitching moments in close-ups as when she’s out for the evening with Joseph. The pain is there for all to see, but a reserved approach often dilutes the experience.

Glazer definitely has the eye of a film maker who works impressively with crafty cinematographer Harris Savides to bring a chill around Manhattan with soothing orchestral music, especially in the park. If Kidman and young Bright, who offers some preternatural qualities in a voice greater than his years, aren’t good enough in a bathtub scene. There’s also weird, if eerie Anne Heche as Clara who turns out to be the psychological deus ex machina of Birth.

If there were more to all the long takes and some exposition into Anna before the solemn boy has her making plans when he becomes 21, but an alluring, poetic mystery that relies too much on Kidman’s physical presence needed to be more un-nerving and intriguing. This spin on reincarnation seems like it was born on a bleak, mundane pretension.


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