Friday, January 20, 2006

Shallow Grave

Sorry about the sparse posts this week. I am on vacation in Miami and had a major deadline I had to work overtime on before I left. Consequently I have only seen one movie since last week, so only one review to give you. I heard about this movie (an English film) when I lived in England in the 90s. I was there when it came out, saw the previews, and thought, "Wow! This movie looks exciting!" But I never had the chance to see it in the theater, and I think I left before it came out on video. Imagine waiting almost twelve years to see a movie you were excited about! Why didn't I see it in the meantime? I forgot, naturally. You don't see a lot of English movies heavily advertised in the States. Why am I watching it now? Well, the movie, Shallow Grave (Boyle, 1994), stars my new crush, Ewan McGregor. So it came up on my map again when I was looking for more early Ewan movies to rent.

What happens when you wait 12 years to watch a movie? You get disappointed! Though, to be fair, I probably would have been disappointed with it if I had watched it right away.

Shallow Grave features a semi-sadistic trio of friends, looking for a new roommate to share their flat. They delight in taunting the prospective roommates, by subjecting them to absurd interviews. When they finally settle on a roomie who seems "interesting" enough to be worthy of their spare room, they find his presence and soon his mysterious "absense" will make their lives a little more interesting than they were hoping. Oh and would you look at that? He left a big old suitcase of money in his wake. The question is... how far would you go for a pile of money? And how far would you believe these guys would go?

It is an interesting enough question to tackle, and interesting to see how the relationships and characters change as their dark secret takes a hold of their lives, but their choice is a bit short of plausible and the movie overall is a bit short of exciting. Too bad too, because there are some fun ideas played with. I mean, let's say that you are brave enough to do what these guys do: take some money belonging to some dead guy, and get rid of some gruesome evidence just so that you can keep your new money. What do you do then? Now you are three people that have to hide the fact that you have this money that comes from a questionable source, AND you are three friends that maybe don't trust each other as much as you maybe thought. I love how crazy one roommate gets; how deranged. And I love how he manages to keep his eye on his roomies. But throughout the movie we kept saying, well why didn't they just tell the police about the dead guy and not about the money? -or- Well, why does that guy have to do all the dirty work that screws with his mind, why not make his friends do it? And what's with these three; are two of them dating? Are they not? If they are, how come the girl is forever getting phonecalls from men? And is there some kind of threesome thing going on? And why, oh why, is Ewan wearing such questionable clothing and a nasty hairdo?

Ultimately, outside of plot questions, the movie suffers from underdeveloped characters. They are a little too mean to applicants in the beginning to care about, plus, the writing is so superficial, we never really know who they are. And if we never know who they are, or if they never intrigue us in some substantial way, how much do we care about what they do?

Interesting that director Danny Boyle seems to have an obsession with friends acquiring a pile of money from a questionable source. See also subpar Millions (a couple of charming little boys come upon a bag of money; one wants to give it all away, one wants to spend it, they both enjoy it thoroughly until someone comes looking for it), and superior Trainspotting (a group of druggies can't seem to escape the drug life. Will Ewan ever shake this druggie circle? At the end there is that one big drug deal that they must do together to solve all their problems, but now that they have a big bag of money, will they all walk off into the sunset with equal shares? Doubtful!)

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