USA 2013. Dir: Drake Doremus; Scr: Drake Doremus, Ben York Jones
The only reason to see this film is for a three-minute sequence in which ten fingers (supposedly attached to Felicity Jones, who plays Sophie, an exchange student) caress a piano for a little-known Chopin piece. It’s as much of a stunning, glorious surprise to the film audience as it is significant to the plot development. It certainly put a momentary, but abrupt, stop to my tutting, sighing and giggling at the laboured direction and predictability of the unlikely story. Sadly, the film reverts to type in minutes.
It’s the kind of story we feel we’ve seen many times before. Keith, played by Guy Pierce, is an aging musician who has been living as a teacher without spontaneity or inspiration since the birth of his daughter, Lauren, seventeen years ago. He is, of course, disappointed in Lauren, who isn’t musical but does a bit of swimming. His lovely, loving wife of eighteen years puts a strain on any communication by introducing pragmatism. Into the nest comes dark-haired and dark-eyed Sophie (She’s English, but irony is completely absent). Not only does she attract the boy Lauren fancies but, more significantly for the family unit, she can really play piano.
The film might as well have been made by a big studio for its predictability and need for suspension of disbelief. Sadly the “indie” ingredients are delivered with formulaic heavy-handedness: close-ups of emotion-addled faces, laconic interaction and lingering shots of door-frames, corridors and tree-limbs. Doremus extends this to what he squeezes from the cast: “Do more acting!” he seems to be shouting in every take, as everyone tries so hard. And in the end we just don’t believe it, in part because we don’t really find much out about Sophie or Keith. Despite staring into her face for some time, we don’t get to know Sophie. And while we get that Keith might be weak, narcissistic and selfish, we don’t get how his family hasn’t sensed this before. The music is very pretty (you know, nice) but it’s a film that is self-consciously weighty and feels forced, bringing to mind the phrase, “I could have made it more natural if I’d worked harder at it.” Doremus needs to work much harder at it.
Also by Drake Doremus:
Like Crazy (2011)