Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Nicole Kidman Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts, or Thoughts on The Others

Los Otros (2001) or The Others came out the same year as Moulin Rouge and Birthday Girl and completely revitalized Nicole Kidman’s career.  Spanish Writer and Director Alejandro Amenábar, Abre Los Ojos (1997, you remember the shot for shot Vanilla Sky remake with Tom Cruise) and Regression (2015) with Emma Watson, helped her create a stylish supernatural thriller about a single mother in a lonely house, at the end of WWII.
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Stewart, haunted in the most literal sense, struggling get through the war and maintain her fragile sanity.  She’s over-worked and close to a breakdown, and the kids aren’t helping.  The first half of the movie is a slow burn, a portrait of a woman unraveling.  Her delicate, bird-like performance is enhanced by her OCD rules about locking doors and complete silence “for the children”.  It’s always for the children in these movies.
Her old-Hollywood glamour is perfectly complimented by the isolated, stately British manor she inhabits along with her two children, creepy housekeeper and mute servant girl.  The children are light-sensitive and allergic to sunlight, so the windows are shaded and the house is always in shadows and permanent night, which of course helps with the hauntings.
It doesn’t take long before the older sister is talking to a little boy that only she can see named Victor.  The viewer can’t tell at first if the sister is merely teasing her little brother, and the tension is heightened as Grace struggles to remain rational and retain her sanity.   Everyone could simply be coping with the war in their own quirky and desperate ways.  We of course as an audience know this is a ghost story, but not in the traditional sense, there are many surprises in store in this moody and atmospheric film.
There’s a refreshing lack of CGI for a 21st Century movie, and the scares rely on good old-fashioned direction, writing and performance.  It’s truly frightening for a PG-13 movie, and holds up admirably when compared to the harder, louder and brassier R-rated The Conjuring (2013).  There are also inevitable comparisons to The Sixth Sense (1999) and ironically, Beatlejuice (1988), but The Others at its heart is a gothic tale more aligned with Henry James in ghost stories like The Innocents (1961) and the BBC production of The Turn of The Screw (2009) with Michelle Dockery.
Fionnula Flanagan plays Mrs. Mills, the Irish housekeeper with a secret, and Christopher Eccleston, who you know and love as the Ninth Doctor and from Fortitude shows up as the shell-shocked husband finally returning home from war.
Nicole Kidman may be immensely popular and an international movie star, but she has been cast in more than her fair share of quirky genre roles.  Since her breakout debut in Dead Calm (1989) she has starred in Batman Forever (1997), The Stepford Wives remake (2004), the Bewitched remake (2005), and the fourth Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake, The Invasion (2007).  She always finds time for pop culture in between winning Oscars for The Hours (2002) and high-brow experiments like Dogville (2002) and Fur (2006).



my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.