I'm not a Brian De Palma apologist. I've only seen a select few of his movies and I have yet to see Scarface. I don't love this movie simply because De Palma directed it, I love this movie because it's a well-executed compelling thriller.
In short, Passion is a glorious mess of a film. It is both art and trash. It is both compelling and unintentionally hilarious. It's something to behold, something to admire, and something to be totally baffled by, with a strong possibility of absolutely hating it as you can see by the dismal reviews from critics and audiences. I love it. I loved this gloriously trashy, artsy, and stupid film in every element of its lurid, misguided insanity.
The plot focuses on two women: Christine and Isabelle who are higher-ups at an cell phone company. At first, the two get along fairly well with one another, until Isabelle comes up with an idea for a commercial that turns out to be a hit with other higher ups who want to show it internationally.
However, when discussing how ecstatic they are over the commercial, Christine ends up taking credit for the idea, which begins the fracture in their business relationship, which becomes exponentially worse when Isabelle sleeps with a man named Dirk, who is seeing Christine.
After the tryst, Christine does everything in her power to ruin Isabelle's life in any way she can, even doing shitty things like recording her when she's having sex, accusing her doing things falsely, and a number of other things, which eventually begins to drive Isabelle to a breaking point.
Soon, the lives of both women are turned upside down and the stakes are only increased with each passing stab at each other on their journey up the corporate ladder.
The story may sound pretty good on paper, but the execution is downright bad. It feels out of touch with the times, which is why at certain points it recalled something more from the 70's or 80's (There's even some 80's-style saxophone music at one point). The rivalry is certainly interesting, especially how the women up the ante at every chance they get, but it feels like it loses its dramatic flair in the wake of trashy sex and implausible scenarios.
The weirdness and absurdity also diminishes most of the dramatic and thriller elements as the plot only seems to increase the amount of stupidity any chance it gets as it progresses, like how poor Isabelle seems to be surrounded almost entirely by crazy people, including some who have sexual tension for her, which includes Christine and Isabelle's secretary, Dani.
I was also frustrated by the fact that I wanted to know more about these women in general, to make them seem more human, rather than being simply catty towards one another with a series of sex scenes and nudity jammed in place of character development.
However, as a trashy rivalry film filled with sex, nudity, sexual tension, lurid drama, and more, the story is entertaining on a trash level, but not on a deeper level.
The acting is sort of a mixed bag. I loved the performances by Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams who were easily the best performers in the film. Noomi Rapace was more sympathetic and more developed between the two characters, but even with such a hokey script, she does a pretty good job and upgraded the script to greater heights with her terrific performance.
Rachel McAdams seems to realize just how wacky this film is, but she embraces the absurdity with bravura. She gave a perfect bitchy performance, with the right amount of campy-ness thrown in. I loved her character because she understands perfectly just how wacky everything is and immerses herself in the role of the narcissistic, manipulative, and sexy Christine.
The rest of the performances are frankly not worth noting. It's the two leads that make the film.
The primary method of gleaning entertainment from this messy film is on a trashy level. It has its compelling moments of intrigue and two terrific performances, but it's not really workable as a thriller or a drama. However, for the lover of trash, there's plenty of sex, nudity, hokey dialogue, stylish visuals, and very nice music to complement the affair. It's a lot of fun to watch in that regard if you go in with the right mindset.
Passion is not something you'll probably like. It's clearly a film made by a director who is long past his prime and features a number of flaws. It will only be enjoyed by purveyors of trash and die hard Brian DePalma fans.
It's a great big mess, but it's a very entertaining and oddly fascinating mess of a film that is very ambitious. It's a terrifically flawed, terrifically stupid, sexy, stylish, and really fun film to me.