Pretty unlikable pair of heroines here. I found Dani the most sympathetic, and she was pretty warped too.
Bitching, backstabbing and manipulation with a bit of horror thrown in. What's not to like!
At it's core, "Passion" is a thriller concerning a conniving game of cat and mouse between an ad executive (Rachel McAdams) and her up-and-coming subordinate played by Noomi Rapace; both actresses really solid here. Plot and characters are secondary though, as DePalma employs all the gimmicks that made him a master of the macabre in the first place. We witness elaborate camera work, an elegantly prolonged split-screen sequence, habituated, left-field sensuality, an over-the-top Pino Donaggio score, an orchestrated timeline that lies to us; in a movie that's not above manipulation.
So yes, "Passion" is a greatest hits of DePalma's usual quirks and obsessions. I liked the results. Any fan of it's creator should too. If not, well... you can't say it's boring!
Very Good Film! It's a cross between a late night made for cable movie and a European art film. The cinematography is great, lots of inventive shots. Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace ham it up as back stabbing executives. They have great chemistry and as the plot twists along we are never quite sure who to root for. DePalma proves to be the master of the erotic thriller once again. Not since "Femme Fatale" have we seen his return to the modern murder mystery/thriller. Basically, what you have in "Passion" is a shot for shot retelling of "Love Crime" with some minor changes and a classic DePalma ending accompanied by Pino Donagio's "Dressed to Kill" score blaring, with actions speaking for the characters instead of words. This movie is DePalma's life work rolled into one. His fans will be happy to know that DePalma is back, and better than ever.
The rivalry between the manipulative boss of an advertising agency and her talented protégée escalates from stealing credit to public humiliation to murder.
His latest endeavor, PASSION, is a remake of a 2010 French thriller called CRIME D'AMOUR (LOVE CRIME). Shot in Berlin and starring Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace as an Ad Exec and her protege who engage in an erotic, twisty game of power plays and murder. McAdams is fully up to the task of being the icy blonde DePalma heroine, caressing each hoary line with a knowing wink similar to that of Nancy Allen, formerly married to DePalma and a star in DePalma's best films. Rapace doesn't fair as well, with her tightly wound demeanor and overly serious dedication to her character. Watching her melt down in a parking garage is simultaneously wonderful and embarrassing. Unless you're given a script filled with brilliantly vulnerable and true moments like Sissy Spacek was in CARRIE, then a DePalma performance needs to slightly break the fourth wall a bit to truly succeed. McAdams knows this is delicious trash, whereas Rapace is going for Oscar glory. Guess who wins?
None of this is to say that PASSION is any good. It's actually a bit tedious as it's a very long march to get to its dangerous endeavors. There are, however, perverse pleasures to be had , but don't you dare take it seriously for a second. This is a female empowerment fantasy disguised as a bitch-heeled, cat-fightin'` war of wills. DePalma used to be accused of ripping off Hitchcock, but then he started rifling around in his own collection (the nod to CARRIE at the end of DRESSED TO KILL is repeated here). It's as if he's stuck replaying his greatest hits CD on a turntable...and if you can understand that sentence, then you're gonna eat this film alive.
As far as production values, they're a bit lacking. Clearly made on a lower budget than what DePalma was used to in his glory days, there are cheap translights in backgrounds where natural cityscapes would have been used, a terrible London sequence clearly shot in Berlin, and an overall emptiness to the look which in the past would have been filled in with lurid detail and expert slashes of lighting. Cinematographer José Luis Alcaine, a veteran of Pedro Almodovar's films, seems to be doing a slightly less rich imitation of vintage DePalma. It's not bad work, but with fewer resources at hand, it's more BODY SINGLE than BODY DOUBLE.
Ultimately it doesn't matter, because DePalma has a signature style, something rare in a director. His films are like orange juice with the pulp and the whole rind thrown in just in case you forgot how it's supposed to feel going down. Even when he's having a slightly less invested good time as he does this time out, he still trots out enough split screens, twists, and expertly crafted sequences to remind you that it takes an artist to make junk food like PASSION taste this good.
American remakes of French films are nothing new, but De Palma's take on the late Alain Corneau's 2010 'Love Crime' is a curiosity. This isn't a case of Hollywood acquiring a property, in fact no major studio would touch material of this nature. Instead, we have the producer of the original, Said Ben Said, performing the same duty for the remake. Rather than relocate it from France to the U.S, De Palma's version moves the story to Germany. Said may have believed there was room for improvement over Corneau's film, but De Palma makes few changes to the original script. What little tampering he does serves to make the story unintentionally laughable, as he injects a lesbian sub-plot which he seems ill-equipped to explore.
Rapace is watchable as always but McAdams is badly miscast. For a start, she's at least ten years too young for the character. Anyone who saw Corneau's film can't help but compare her to Kristin Scott Thomas' brilliant take on the character. There simply is no comparison. Fans of the director, however, will note a resemblance between McAdams and De Palma's ex-wife, and star of several of his films, Nancy Allen. De Palma frames his shots almost identically to those of the original but throws in a split screen sequence which seems gratuitous until the twist is revealed. It's a neat trick from a film-maker with plenty up his sleeve. As a director, he's still got it, but the former "Movie Brat" insists on adapting the script himself. Writing has never been De Palma's strength and it's all too obvious here. The character of Dani is shoehorned into the story for two reasons: provide some lesbian sleaze, and act as a vessel for expository dialogue. The strings are all too visible in this movie, a major problem for a thriller.
I'm not usually one to moan about product placement, as I realize it's become a necessity for film-makers like De Palma to raise their budgets, but this movie has some of the most shameless examples I've witnessed. Worst of all is a brazen shot which zooms slowly into a laptop lid until the Apple logo completely fills the screen. Perhaps De Palma should be working on Madison Avenue now?
Among the more notable problems with this very flawed film is underdevelopment, as there is no immediate background information and only so much progressive exposition behind this narrative and its characters, whose thoroughly unlikable traits are brought more to your attention by the developmental shortcomings, but were always to be seriously palpable, due to their often falling among the many dramatic aspects that get pretty carried away. Brian De Palma's and Natalie Carter's script is typically simply questionable with its drawing of questionable scenarios and character types, yet there are times where the writing descends into hopelessly histrionic, maybe even soapy melodrama that drives too many aspects of the dramatic narrative, and isn't even all that refreshing. The least that this film could do would be to go some distance off of the usual beat and path of formula of erotic melodramas of its type, but histrionics go backed by familiarity, resulting in a trite feel, and yet, not matter how much De Palma and Carter force in meat, natural shortcomings remain considerable. I suppose this story concept is reasonably intriguing, even with certain histrionics, but through, if not with the melodramatically juicy shell is a bland core of simple business sleaze, broken up by erotic intensity that would be more biting if direction was more inspired. Even the telling of a somewhat limp story has a degree of limpness to it, which bloats plot structuring with excess material, often to the point of focal lapses, made all the more aimless-feeling by many a moment in which meditativeness runs out of material to soak up, resulting in blandness, if not a hint of dullness or distance to what resonance there is. For a conceptually heated character thriller, there's something cold about this film, which doesn't quite chill itself into mediocrity, yet still falls firmly into underwhelmingness under serious natural and consequential storytelling issues, many of which aren't even refreshing. This is a pretty formulaic erotic thriller, yet, like I said, steam is never completely lost, going sustained by a decent amount of inspiration, and even some striking visuals.
Veteran Spanish cinematographer José Luis Alcaine is not especially stylish with camera plays, nor is he even all that dynamic with lighting plays here, yet generally sticks with a lighting and coloring style that practically compensates for cinematographic limitations with sheer overwhelmingly intense softness to lighting that emphasizes the glamour of the environment and characters beautifully, and with a certain thematic weight. The tasteful style to the cinematography and, to a certain extent, fine environment emphasis are not simply unique, at least in comparison to plenty of other aspects of this formulaic thriller, but capture the sleazy, yet slick flair of this subject matter's tone and thematic core, and for this, some credit is due to Brian De Palma, at least as director. Of course, De Palma's directorial strengths don't quite end there, and while De Palma's dry meditations prove to not simply be blanding, but emotionally distancing in their slowing things down enough for you to meditate upon many writing issues and natural shortcomings, when material for De Palma to soak up really kicks in, the meditativeness really works, playing with atmospheric score work by Pino Donaggio and disconcerting imagery in order to capture intrigue, if not tension. The film is kind of lacking in erotic heat, yet there is still a fair bit of bite to De Palma's near-noirish storytelling, and even to the story that Alain Corneau introduced, just before his passing, through 2010's "Love Crime". This minimalist story concept has only so much kick to it, and it's hard to ignore that when its interpretation proves to be undercooked and hopelessly melodramatic, yet this is still a juicy tale, charged by grippingly sleazy, if somewhat unlikable characters, who are themselves charged by performances that do about as much as anything in carrying this messy opus. It's always difficult to get all that invested in these problematically drawn characters, but I would have been further distanced from them if they weren't so well-portrayed, particularly by the leads, with Rachel McAdams being about as convincing as she can be as the almost satirically stereotypically low-down woman of business and backstabbing, while Noomi Rapace convinces even more, not necessarily with her admittedly dodgy faux accent, but with her very strong and well-layered portrayal of a well-intentioned, but flawed woman who learns much of the sleazy depths of business and people as she suffers through several rocky relationships. It's a while before material picks up for Rapace, but when the opportunity for dramatic power presents itself, Rapace delivers, joining a fair bit of inspiration to style and storytelling in keeping the final product alive as a decent, if somewhat cold thriller.
When what heat there is in the first place to this film finally dies down, you're left with a thriller whose natural shortcomings go too stressed by underdevelopment, melodrama and pacing problems - whose aimlessness goes exacerbated by atmospheric cold spells - to escape underwhelmingness, but striking cinematography, generally reasonably endearing direction and some strong performances - particularly the lead one by Noomi Rapace - do enough justice to this story concept's weight to make Brian De Palma's "Passion" a fairly engaging erotic thriller, in spite of its shortcomings and limitations in heat.
2.5/5 - Fair
This film, however, is not for everyone. In fact, I think this film is for a smaller group of people than it is for a larger group. This film is for the biggest of classic De Palma geeks, the film nerds that love seeing homages pouring out of every corner, and people who flat out just want some excitement and confusion out of a movie that can be compared with visual art. The cinematography and camera work is the best I have seen so far this year, hands down. Absolutely every shot is breath taking, and this could be depending on the angle of the shot, the rich colours used, the composition, anything and even sometimes everything. Oddly enough, the trailer(s) don't even show off these gorgeous shots at all. With Tree Of Life and its trailer, you got a sense of what you'd experience visually and it pulled many people in. With Passion, you just have to find out for yourself. The trailers do the movie no justice in regards to how it looks.
On the topic of justice, if there is any justice, Noomi Rapace will be lauded for her best English speaking role by far. Every single emotion hits you exactly the way it should, and you can almost hear exactly what she is thinking at every second. Her slow descent from an optimistic business woman to a resentful psycho is so humane, and I was honestly very worried that the revenge aspect of the film would have been rushed into. Not only was it planned out really well, Rapace helps you pin point exactly when each step down is not through obviousness but by compassion and empathy. I know I praise Noomi Rapace very often, but I do feel that she is one of the most exciting and talented actors out there, and it's not my fault that her work in Passion is some of her best work yet and easily a highlight of the movie.
McAdams's character, however, wasn't a bad one, but one that you kind of had to warm up to and understand De Palma's purpose of. Her facetious tone of voice, her exaggerated expressions, and her overall just very conniving attitude, all add up as both a parody of traditional American films but also a means to justify the eventual acts. McAdams does a pretty good job in the end, much better than expected (Really? The head boss? Hey, it somehow kind of worked). There's almost no comparison when both her and Rapace are on screen, however, as McAdams's plastic coated performance may outshine Rapace's organic one at times (not by talent but by necessity), but the latter prevails in most scenes.
In fact, you can find this American vs. European battle with the film itself, as its shots and editing suggest that the film was inspired by classic European film makers, but the fascination of technology, sexuality and vengeance is written with such an American mindset. Many directors are tributes as well, with an ending very Hitchcock-ian in nature, and shots clearly influenced by Kubrick. The music shifts from being playful and upbeat to being just the right thing to strike your wrong chords. The sad music was fantastic; the upbeat music took some getting used to.
The thing is, I loved this movie. I loved it loved it loved it. The issue lies with the films target audience. I can easily see why many people would dislike this movie. It has a lot of confusion being used as a major factor in its storytelling, it has many over the top moments, there are a lot of awkward situations, and so much more. Hey, it's classic De Palma. If you're not a big De Palma fan, and not everyone is (just liking Scarface does not count), then maybe this film is not for you. If you love the oddity, perversion, and anguish of his films, then this film shall deliver. I can see why people would rate this movie low, but that's why this is my review and not yours. The movie got off to a bit of a bumpy start, of which got carried by Rapace and the cinematography, yet it grew into a thrilling, scary and downright bizarre tale of envy and determination. Passion is a sterling film that will please De Palma fans, and it may slightly intrigue others, and if it does, I warn you: It is not your conventional film.
Final Rating: 8.2/10
Well worth a look, give it a rental.
Passion is the first new Brian De Palma movie I've seen since The Black Dahlia, one of the absolute worst movies of 2006 and one of the most unintentionally funny movies I've ever seen. And yet the same has often been said about Passion, a remake of a 2010 French film called Love Crime, or Crime d'amour, which I've not seen so I can't yell out "Betrayal!" but the consensus of that film was a resounding, "Meh." In a nutshell, Passion is about two women who work in advertising trying to outsmart one another by playing dirty, mean girl tricks. Might as well call this movie Mean Women, and thankfully Rachel McAdams hasn't forgotten her queen B edge and brings a more vile, sensual, and kinda freakish performance. Ditto for Noomi Rapace who gives quite a warped performance herself.
Things for the two started off pretty well with subtle backstabbing but a general understanding of work politics, until they get involved with the same guy and things escalate to vicious backstabbings and eventually murder. And that's pretty much the whole movie which masquerades as a whodunnit erotic mystery thriller movie concoction. The film mostly banks on being a mystery thriller, and for the most part it was surprisingly thrilling though the mystery you can kinda see coming a mile away. And yes, the movie is low on eroticism so perhaps you can get this movie and not worry about your kids watching it because there really isn't much offered in that category, which often is the source of criticism because I guess critics wanted to get all steamed up (to put it lightly). I think they wanted something deeper, heavier, meatier, something that remotely resembles a great erotic mystery thriller.
Say a kid watches it, or a teen, hoping to see some boobs and blow his arm off watching this supposed action, he (and it'll most likely be a male) will probably get mind fucked. One would expect to see all sorts of sex but instead watches this fucked up movie. It reminds me of when I first watched Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and was traumatized because it got so fucked up (thank you Roger Ebert for writing that movie). Passion doesn't reach that level, it's more like, "Huh?" once the credits start rolling. I first thought that it was just a cheap cop out that movies American thrillers and horror movies resort to where the filmmakers just want to say, "Gotcha!" but then I started thinking about how the film was made. All of the technical components like the camera angles, the lighting, the hammy acting, the shifts in tone, the De Palma trademarks (like the split screen showing two different actions happening simultaneously), the misdirection, the genre it's meant to be, and the jazzy/erotic score, all of it was quite endearing that it makes a rather simple mystery-thriller grandeur than it actually is. This may be a classic case of style over substance but this is actually necessary. And in its unique way the movie is actually quite funny and I think this was intentional.
In recent years, there have been a lot of movies about movies; even this year we got a major release (which I'll review in this lifetime). This was an instance where I'm not watching a movie for the story or characters, but watching a movie simply for what it is: a movie. It doesn't say anything thought-provoking or new about this trend of "movies being self aware," but just that it's a movie that exists. It's almost like watching how a movie is made, but nothing about it breaks the fourth wall in the way The Cabin in the Woods and Seven Psychopaths did (to name a few) nor is there anything said by the characters mentioning movies. Passion is a movie to be admired for existing and using all of these techniques. The writing is stilted and by the numbers as was presumably in the original French film but it was improved by De palma's approach to the genre, and expertise in film. And it looks like he had a lot of fun making this movie, which shows because I had fun watching it. I gasped, I emoted, I felt for the characters, I was on the edge of my seat, and yes I laughed. I would have had a blast watching this in theaters like I did for American Hustle and Ahnuld's The Last Stand. I'm not saying this ironically like I did for that shitty 2011 movie The Roommate (though maybe in a few years that'll be the case) but because Passion, as its title implies, is a love letter to cinema altogether and just about everything I love about movies unfolds onscreen. This is not a shitty movie like The Roommate was because this is a beautiful movie that is simultaneously a lot of fun to watch, and to lump beautiful and fun together is very rare (I think the last known instance would be The Dark Knight). Not a love of a genre or classic films or De Palma, but a love of movies and going to the movies. This recalls the 2007 double-feature masterpiece that was Grindhouse.
Every movie-making trick is used, at least for this particular genre though I don't think it's necessary to associate Passion with just one genre. The criticism was directed at the obvious and true I felt a bit cheated at the end but now looking beyond the story and remembering my love of movies, I enjoyed Passion a bit more and you might, too. It's got a nostalgic feel to it, especially during those dream sequences, yet it's more modern than those other throwback filmmaking flicks like Frances Ha (2013) or Far From Heaven (2002). Passion does not feel like an imitation like such movies but authentic even though much of it feels like an homage. It's not aware of being a movie nor does it make a grand statement about something, but is rather very subtle about being as such (being a movie, that is). Or maybe not even that. Passion is more classy rather than a filmmaker indulging in hipsterdom, probably because the filmmaker Brian De Palma is a living legend and a man who redefined cinema during his heyday.
Passion is quite a vexing movie and I'm sure more can be written about it but I loved it. I loved every minute of it. How will it hold up on a second viewing is hard to say. Call it a poor man's Mulholland Drive, or a bad parody of Brian De Palma's own filmography, or just a terrible film altogether, I love it and I love how it feels more like a love letter to cinema. Although Passion is regarded as having a 2013 release, I'm considering it a 2014 movie because it had such a lousy distribution outside of film festivals and painfully limited releases that I doubt a lot of people watched it last year and I want to give this movie the acknowledgement it rightfully deserves. And yep, you surmised correctly: Passion is one of the best movies I've seen this year. It's thrilling but oddly enough I think it's more fun and entertaining to watch. Maybe it should be labeled as a comedy; not a satire, a comedy. Or a conglomeration of genres. A beautiful arthouse erotic mystery thriller comedy that's fun to watch and is a solid homage to cinema. And now that I think about it, that makes Passion more like Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call, New Orleans. Dammit, I love this movie.
To some it'll play like a retrospective, a highlight reel stronger as shear evidence of a filmmaker's particular skill set than it does anything standalone. There will be blood from the impatient. But meanwhile there will be just as much passion from stalwarts of the director's extraordinary talent for making soap operas seem Hitchcockian; even occasionally Shakespearean. "Passion" is cheesy and more than a little ridiculous, with an ending that's less a culmination than a convoluted kiss of death, but the way it jumps midway from office space intrigue to murder mystery, and so boldly and shamelessly at that, is a bit akin to De Palma cutting the head off a snake.
It helps also that he gets great performances from Rachel McAdams and the always game (even when it leaves her sour) Noomi Rapace. "Passion" is pretty silly the more you think about it, but it's a fairly accomplished thriller by a restless auteur who might sell his potboiler plot short but never does us. Until, again, that ending.