DOASKDOTELL MOVIE REVIEWs of Derailed, One Hour Photo

 

Title:  Derailed

Release Date:  2005

Nationality and Language: USA/UK, English

Running time: 100 min

MPAA Rating: R

Distributor and Production Company: The Weinstein Company LLC, Miramax; di Bonaventura

Director; Writer: Mikael Hafstrom; based on novel by James Siegel, screenplay by Stuart Beattie

Producer: Lorenao di Bonaventura; Executive producers: Bob and Harvey Weinstein

Cast:  Clive Owen, Jennifer Aniston, Vincent Cassel, Melissa George

Technical: Widescreen, digital DTS stereo

Relevance to DOASKDOTELL site: screenplays

 

The media has reported the split between the Weinstein group and Disney, with Disney keeping the Miramax name. It would seem that Weinstein LLC would look for another snazzy name (besides Dimension Films for the horror genre), but in the meantime films continue to be released as Miramax/Weinstein jointly. The Weinstein Company has the look of another Dreamworks.

 

The movie starts showing Charles Schine (Clive Owen) in jail, so that gives us a structure for a thriller. We will trace some complicated events involving several interesting characters to show how an upstanding executive winds up in jail (besides insider trading). Then he will have to extricate himself. As we unstring the story, it shows up as a more conventional thriller, with all the major plot points of a conventional screenplay: change in plans, point of no return, new complications, payoff. The title suggests a Shyamalan film, as does the esoteric nature of the story. I had tried a similar idea, with an innocent character in jail, looking back, with my “69 Minutes to Titan” script, and I have my hero (or antihero) bargain his way out of jail, giving up something to get redemption. And I used technology in a somewhat similar way. In “Derailed” Charles tracks down Lucinda (Jennifer Anniston) on the Internet, just as in my play the young teen character tracks Clem on the Internet and may have arranged to have his website hacked in order to set him up.

 

But now we get to the main plot. A middle aged woman Lucinda pretends to be an executive so that she with her partners in crime can lure middle aged unfaithful men (approaching them on Chicago commuter trains – hence the name of the movie) into seedy motels and then rip them off. That is, get them blackmailed. Charles gets into real trouble. Having trouble keeping his job as an advertising executive in Chicago, he does have a loyal schoolteacher as a wife (Melissa George) and a juvenile diabetic high school daughter Amy (Addison Timlin) who is already on hemodialysis and having diabetic comas. She desperately needs another kidney transplant. He has a reason to get his money back. Now he will take the law into his own hand, actually get himself into prison to get at villain Philippe (Vincent Cassel), where he pretends to teach inmates.

 

Now we have Charles’s temporary blindness to what Lucinda is up to—the abruptness of the invasion of their seedy motel room should be a giveaway that something more is up. It’s pretty obvious to the audience, but not to Charles. He has trouble letting go of what is very dangerous in seeing her, but maybe he can’t as the blackmail has started. (I once had the embarrassment of looking for a motel in Birmingham, AL and finding one that offered only rooms by the hour.)

 

There is one other plot idea that catches attention: toward the end, Charles seems to want to go to prison. He has a good reason (someone he wants to execute is there). So the embezzlement charge fits in. The idea of virtual self-imprisonment (and perhaps “self-incrimination”) occurs in a couple of my scripts (“The Sub”) and seems disturbing. As one of my standup comedy friends in a Minneapolis coffee bar used to say, “Stay out of the penitentiary.”

 

The motel coupling between Lucinda and Charles is pretty erotic, with the undressings and frottage, and it perhaps suggests that Charles’s manhood – his ability to protect his family, if that’s what manhood means—will soon be tested. Indeed it is. But the movie then turns into a sequence of plot point confrontations, all of them interesting and topical, and yet still just a manipulation at the end. We expect the movie to say more.

 

 One Hour Photo (2002, Fox Searchlight, dir. Mark Romanek) gives us Robin Williams as Seymour “Sy” Parrish, the dutiful “one hour photo” processor who has done this for twenty years for a living at a local supermarket. Now, at the risk of invoking Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed) we are confronted with the humdrum of being a working class person, having to be friendly to customers and probably wearing a uniform while doing a somewhat regimented job every day. Michael Vartin and Connie Nielsen play the well-off suburban Yorkin family, and Sy has become obsessed with their better life. He makes extra prints of their pictures and keeps them at home. Gradually he realizes he has something on them. He wants to roll them. Along the way, there are plenty of chilling scenes, as when his boss calls him from the basement over the store intercom and, when Sy reaches his office, the boss fires him. A somewhat Hitchcockian little thriller that probes moral weaknesses. One point to remember about the real world: sometimes photo processors turn in people for real world crimes, such as child pornography.

 

 

 

 

Related reviews:.  Victim (also deals with blackmail)  Fatal Attraction, Body Heat    Play Misty for Me   Barbara Ehrenreich;s Nickel and Dimed

 

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