In my review, kinda, of Beastly, I said there was a movie coming out this year that I couldn’t wait to see called Antiviral, as directed by a first-timer called Brandon Cronenberg. I also said that Brandon Cronenberg was the son of Canadian director David Cronenberg, who–when he was younger–had cinematic balls the size of boulders. All I have to tell you about the risks this man took is the image of James Woods pushing a betamax tape into his chest-vagina in Videodrome. This was a man who did not care less about being polite or conservative or conventional. And as Tarantino doesn’t want to happen to him, around middle age, Cronenberg the elder started reining all of that in. Either because he discovered maturity or had a family or just wanted to start being recognized for all of the courage he’d had earlier, his movies started being more about families dealing with true-to-life horrors than about Jeff Goldblum turning into a half-fly/half-human horror. He also started casting Viggo Mortensen in everything, but I think that was coincidental and a product of a good working relationship.
And so, in the Oscarbaiting twilight of his career, we have A Dangerous Method, the second movie this year wherein Michael Fassbender is compelled to have deviant sex. Only this time, instead of being a twenty-first century young man, he’s Carl Jung, the psychologist responsible for pretty much all of modern theory (statement not intended to be factual). One of his patients, later friend/mistress and fellow frontal lobe pioneer is Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), a woman who–as a child–was sexually excited by her father’s beatings and the feelings of shame they aroused. To deal with this patient, Jung applies Freud’s theory of talk therapy. Of course, to make sure he’s doing it right, he writes to Sigmund Freud (Mortensen) personally, having him weigh in on all of his problems and discussing the issues in the field of psychology for hours on end.
Sadly, this movie is really good. It has really good performances, excellent costumes, good cinematography, fine editing. It’s also really easily summarized in fewer than a hundred words and not really distinct beyond that. Fassbender is once again great as Jung, but if you want to see the performance he was snubbed by the Oscars for, go watch Shame. Keira Knightley does a fantastic job as Spielrein, if a bit of a superficial performance. The same goes for Viggo Mortensen as Freud. Overall, it’s par for the course as an Oscar movie. A great performance in a serviceable movie surrounded by superficiality. Which I’m not convinced is the fault of the actors.
You see, for all I love the fact that David Cronenberg was utterly fearless, his movies have never sold me on character. The people on film have never resonated as real people, but instead as Characters in a Play that is being Shown on film. Like Fincher–another director noted for tackling stuff others shy away from–he seems more interested in style than story. And while that’s always satisfying for the kind of Oscar voters that like to make sure all attempts at reality and necessity are eliminated, it’s not my kind of movie. Yes, it’s nitty and gritty, yeah there’s a lot of spanking and whipping and tying and deflowering, but if it’s not the best Michael-Fassbender-is-compelled-to-have-deviant-sex movie of the year, it really could’ve had some work done.
I liked A Dangerous Method. I was entertained while watching it. Sadly, I was little more and after it was done I found myself with the strongest urge to finally see The Fly. THREE STARS