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No Such Thing (2002) – DVD Review

No Such Thing DVD


Written and Directed by Hal Hartley
Starring Sarah Polley, Robert John Burke, Helen Mirren, Julie Christie

Released by: MGM Home Video.
Rating: R
Region: 1
Anamorphic: No.

My Advice: Avoid It.

Once upon a time, there lived a Monster (Burke) on an island with an underground tower (actually a missile silo) near the Land of Ice (actually Iceland). This Monster could not die and was not happy about that. He could also feel the ever increasing pressure of humanity and this made him even unhappier. He tried to relieve his tension through drink, random terror, and a few killings…but it didn’t help much. Enter the ingénue, Beatrice (Polley). She is the servant of the evil witch known as The Boss (actually she’s an intern for an evil TV news producer called The Boss) who delights in misery and death, especially if there is accompanying video. Beatrice wants to confront the Monster for killing her fiancée. So she sets out on her quest and after surviving many perils, she reaches her goal. When she learns of the Monster’s wish to die, she decides to bring it to civilization to grant that wish. The Boss (Mirren) exploits this to the fullest, but what will happen to Beatrice and her Monster when the world can no longer say that there is No Such Thing?

[ad#longpost]It’s a real shame when you have an interesting concept and completely fail to express it. The idea of an actual monster unable to affect a society that has been forced fed disaster, death, and dirty dealings has definite possibilities. And they based a whole TV series on skewing the whole Beauty and the Beast myth. But this movie tries to be a social satire with fantastic elements and ends up a blobby mess. I’m not sure if the Monster is suppose to be a Messiah figure wanting to die for our sins, a pure being tainted by modern life, or another victim down the ravenous maw of media. I wonder if the director knew either.

The movie never settles on one theme enough to give it a thorough treatment. The satire of the media is also too broad with Mirren playing a caricature of a heartless TV executive with a fawning staff. It’s been done before and a lot better too. Even Beatrice’s character is confusing when she goes from mourning her fiancée one minute to sleeping with a good looking hanger-on in another. She goes from trying to kill the monster to sympathizing with it. The problem is there is no development from one state to another. And there’s a section in which she starts to go into excruciating detail about something that happened to her, stopping the movie dead. I am amazed that this movie can be both too obscure and too obvious. Look, I don’t mind working some to appreciate a movie, but the moviemaker, either through incompetence or artistic pretension, should not make me do all the work. Incomprehensibility is not a virtue.

Of course, there are no special features. I would have loved the writer/director to explain himself and what the hell he was thinking. I would also like to know how he got Helen Mirren and Julie Christie involved in this. There are much better films out there that deal with the media and the dangers of modern society. Find them and avoid this one.

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