I think the only thing I took away from this movie is the knowledge that Anne Heche can actually act if she feels like it. I already knew Nicole Kidman could, and this movie is basically just one gigantic stage for her to heave around her dramatics. That two minute shot of her face at the theater? There's a point where "look at the slowly degenerating emotional state of this woman" becomes "look at how well Nicole Kidman can subtly fluctuate her facial expressions" and this movie crosses it with splendid ignorance. And far be it from me to defend Crazy Almost Lesbian, but she's always the most watchable character on screen - for the love of God, she has energy! A personality, even! They are diamonds in the mound of placenta that is Birth.
Wow, and is Cameron Bright bad. Sure, he plays his character okay, but it is ONE FACIAL EXPRESSION. ONE VOICE. The entire way through. He's in nearly every scene in the movie and he can't be arsed to add inflection or a eyebrow twitch or anything! Fucking hell. I could have given a better performance than that at 10. I hate Danny Huston in everything he's in so that's no big surprise; check him out in the scene where he goes after Sean. It provoked the strongest emotion I felt throughout the span of the movie...rollicking laughter. "He kicked my chair!!" Lauren Bacall manages to squeeze a tiny bit of character in the movie as well, but she is no more interesting than the rest of the yuppie saps on display.
If you haven't picked it up already, my primary gripe with Birth is that it has confused artistic vision with utter sterilization. There's scarcely a drop of humanity to be found amidst the snowy landscapes and the oppressively beige color scheme. Stuffed with soft, lingering shots of Nicole Kidman silhouetted against city landscapes, it's obvious that Birth aspires to be "art". It's all well and good to have a pretty-looking movie, but Birth stops offering anything visually new within the first half hour; even in this department it fails. The music is another bid at adding class to this lame affair, but it's often out of place and feels just as pretentious as the rest of the movie. In its attempts to find this "art", it downplays its narrative to the point of minimalism. Not to knock on minimalism, but this movie's not having it.
The premise is undeniably intriguing and unique, offering a trove of opportunities for characterization and drama. But why didn't Jonathan Glazer run with it all the way? He pussied out, to put it as clearly as possible without spoilers. Birth turns into a laughable episode of Scooby Doo within the final fifteen minutes, and despite Kidman's efforts to add dramatic validity to the proceedings, it is really laughable. No matter how hard she showboats, you just can't buy into this movie. It doesn't let you. There's no human angle, just walls upon walls of stifling faux-art tripe and manufactured restraint.
I guess it's not really fair to say that there's no human angle, because the concept in itself is as human as you can get. It is then a testament to how bad Glazer fucked this one up that the warmth and pathos are sucked completely dry. For all the hullabaloo that surrounded this movie upon its release, it really should have been good enough to warrant it.
[font=Century Gothic]"Birth" is a rather strange movie in that it lacks any conviction at all. As a provocation, it fails. It's not much of a romance either and we never get any sense as to what Anna's first husband may have been like before he died. The film is desperately in need of a sense of humor because the central premise is not believable.(Yes, there is an explanation, and no it does not make any sense.) It also feels more like a film set in the 19th than the 21st century - the movie is populated with characters who are wealthy yet without a visible means of support; all of the couples look mismatched and here marriage seems like a sentence without a chance for parole. And Nicole Kidman gives yet another flat performance.[/font]