Title: The Deep End
Release Date: 2001
Nationality and Language:
Running time: about 120 Minutes
Distributor and Production Company: Fox Searchlight; I5Films
Director; Writer: Scott McGehee and David Siegel
Based on the 1949 film The Reckless Moment (
Producer: Robert Nathan (Executive)
Cast: Tilda Swinton, Jonathan Tucker, Goran Visnjic
Technical: Panavision 2.35 to 1; Digital
Relevance to DOASKDOTELL site:
Review: Movie Review of The Deep End
From Fox Searchlight Pictures and I5Films; written, produced and directed by
Scott McGehee and David Siegel; execute producer
Robert Nathan; Panavision and Digital stereo,
At first glance, this film looks like a formula thriller: the basic setup is that a mother (Tilda Swinton) hides a corpse to protect a family member. In fact, it is a “remake” of the 1949 film noir The Reckless Moment, based on the novel The Blank Wall by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding (1947). So maybe this could have been your typical studio mainstream film with high-salary stars.
But McGehee and Siegel are interested in their own artistic vision, and in exploring some controversial social issues. In this case, the locus of commentary dervives from the issue of gay teenagers or “gay youth,” something that might be hard with mainstream investors and box office expectations. Here the teen, 17-year-old Beau Hall, is played by Jonathan Tucker and comes across, after his mother, as the most “mature” and together character in the film. He is a gifted athlete and musician and headed for college. But, he has managed to get himself into trouble, visiting gay nightclubs, getting into an accident driving home while intoxicated once, and capturing the attention of a rather creepy thrityish man and gay bar owner. The other controversy is more conventional: the underworld. In her attempt to keep the murder out of public attention, the mother falls into a blackmail scheme when visited by the thug, Goran Visnjic.
Now this film is set in present day in the
But, actually, the Naval officer husband who never appears
in the film, provides the real pivot for
commentary. For the mother is really
not afraid of the police—her son would have an easy self-defense claim—but of
her husband’s learning that her son is gay.
And here we have the hidden message: the military policy towards gays,
because of the attitude that it encourages, can affect gay family members of
military people. At one point, Veau’s grandfather asks why he won’t apply to the
There is a question in my mind about the legal
complications of filming a story involving underage sex. In one secondary video scene connected to
the blackmail, Beau is shown being sodomized (though not with direct nudity
or exposure). It is supposedly illegal
(under federal law and in many states) to depict an underage person having
sex even if an adult actor is used.
(See Chapter 5 footnotes for Our Fundamental Rights for some notes on the Child Pornography
Prevention Act, to be heard by the Supreme Court.) In
There is more about this (dated late 2004) at http://www.doaskdotell.com/refer/intelct.htm (find “child pornography” in the text of this document). It seems that a film would be illegal under federal and most state laws if and only if it depicted actual genital or breast sex acts with an actual or apparent minor, which commercial films from reputable companies in reputable theaters never do (the XXX theaters and industries may be another matter….)
There is also a more up-to-date comment at the end of this file
McGehee and Siegel had made names for themselves with a 1986 film, Suture, a thriller about mistaken identity and race (perhaps jumping on the previous generation’s idea of “passing” for a different race to “get along”), filmed in black and white Panavision.
The interest in this film though is going to be with the
agents and new filmmakers getting into the business. How do you balance your own artistic vision
or social commentary with storytelling?
Screen agents, like literary agents, look hard at the basics of plot,
characterization, dialogue, rooting interest.
These elements are strong in this film. The dialogue is often appropriately sparse,
replaced by progressive action and body language. And this film is indeed an
effective thriller, complete with stunning scenery and a mesmerizing music
score by Peter Nashel. But social issues have been
successfully explored with rather conventional plot formulas in bigger films,
ranging from American Beauty to the
non-fiction stories Erin Brokovich and The
Insider. Indeed, this film shows a woman overcoming “all odds” just like
the heroine of
There is a full-studio film (2001) from 20th
Century Fox, Joy
Ride, with Paul Walker and Steve Zahn
(dir. John Dahl, R, 97 min), that enjoys the same narrative edginess as The Deep End. Here, a rather clean-cut college student
Another thriller along the same lines – clean cut youth (this time a young undercover policeman played by Texas author Ethan Hawke) against evil as Training Day, (2001, Warner Bros/Outlaw, dir. Antoine Faqua) where Denzel Washington plays the corrupt cop. In the real world, the line between good and evil are probably not so stark. Village Roadshow Pictures has been busy.
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