Starring: Julianne Moore, Xander Berkeley, Dean Norris
Director: Todd Haynes
Julianne Moore is a normal suburban house wife in 80’s California. She lives with her rather domineering husband in their perfect house, with his son from a previous marriage. She has no real problems, and from the outside her life looks perfect, but her friendships are shallow, she has no real goals in life, no real personality and her marriage is passionless.
Her life is changed when she starts to get sick. She appears to have a generalised allergy to chemicals, all chemicals. Car fumes cause her to choke, hair products give her a nose bleed. Though her health is deteriorating, there appears to be no real cause for her sickness, and she’s sent to a psychiatrist, though this only increases her nerves. But she soon finds out that she’s not alone, other people are having this same sensitivity to chemicals, and there’s a ranch where she can go to recover.
Seems like a film about 90’s global warming or environmental concerns, right? Well, it’s kind of an undefined film. Carol White’s real problem seems to lie in her being a spoiled woman with no real issues other than her inability to be assertive. But when she attends the retreat at the ranch, she doesn’t actually get better and the leader there is a really weird guy. It’s just more self indulgent, pampered posturing in the self help guise. The film feels more like a commentary on personality than on any global issues. And that makes it kind of a weird, unusual film.
Julianne Moore is wonderful as the whole focus on the film. She feels incredibly real and yet also fragile, vulnerable, empty and vacuous. It’s hard to tell if something is wrong with her physically or emotionally, and what is really going on. The film has been called a horror movie of the soul, which is kind of an interesting way to look at the film. It’s a story with no real conclusion, though personally I feel like it’s making a comment on fashionable illness and self help as an avoidance tactic for dealing with real problems or as a form is distraction.
See It If: a wonderful Julianne Moore performance, one for you who like ambiguity in your drama films. Thought provoking.