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  • Noel Vera
    Many faces of Eve Noel Vera The tagline of Marc Munden s Miranda goes smartsexydangerous… which is about as clever as the movie gets. Christina Ricci
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 25, 2003
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      Many faces of Eve

      Noel Vera

      The tagline of Marc Munden's "Miranda" goes "smartsexydangerousÂ…"
      which is about as clever as the movie gets. Christina Ricci plays
      the eponymous character while John Simms, a BBC TV veteran, plays
      Frank, the bored-with-his-life librarian who falls in love with
      Miranda the moment she sets foot inside his library.

      What follows is the kind of understated romantic comedy British
      cinema does fairly competently, spiced up with a muted version of
      the kind of hot-colored, dark-shadowed visual style combined with
      bright pop-music soundtrack young-turk British filmmakers (Guy
      Richie and Danny Boyle come to mind) like to put in their work.
      Ricci, being a fairly well-known Hollywood star, gets top billing
      (her involvement probably helped obtain the funding for this
      project), but this is really Frank's movie and Simms goes about his
      role quite well, whether hungrily ogling Miranda's shirted breasts,
      or narrating the increasingly unlikely events in his life in a sort
      of wondering, half-dismayed manner. His carefully detailed reaction
      to every move Miranda makes, culminating in his falling into bed
      with her, is what makes this early part of the film so amusing; it's
      the story of the geek that made good, the dork whose fondest dreams
      have come true yet he still can't quite bring himself to believe in
      it. What makes Frank so appealing is the conceit that given such a
      situation, the geek or dork would rise to the occasion, that he
      wouldn't commit some sexual or social faux pas that would drive away
      the object of his desire. Frank is every dork's fantasy of being at
      heart a sweet romantic, every dork's heartfelt belief that his
      secret caramel core would be sufficient to win the girl he loves.
      This is the stuff of which minor romantic comedy classics are made.

      Too bad Munden (directing from a screenplay by Rob Young) couldn't
      sustain the fantasy. He throws in a dark past--turns out Miranda has
      a shady background, complete with Christian (John Hurt), her by
      turns pimp, impresario, and mastermind; and Nailor (Kyle
      MacLachlan), a financially powerful sociopath--that's more colorful
      than convincing. It helps, somewhat, that Hurt, when not playing
      masochistic sufferers ("The Elephant Man," "1984"), is excellent at
      playing mysteriously decadent Europeans, and that MacLachlan's
      character seems to be an extension--an older version, so to speak--
      of the career-defining role he played years ago, the young man
      seduced by sex and violence in "Blue Velvet" (Nailor could be a
      darker variation of Frank, something the filmmakers fail to play
      up). The resonance and skill these two bring to the picture isn't
      enough, however; the movie makes a half-hearted turn into territory
      previously covered by Jonathan Demme's "Something Wild" and David
      Lynch's "Blue Velvet," and becomes yet another parable of an
      innocent sucked in over his head by a femme fatale. Munden and
      Young, unfortunately, aren't Demme and Lynch, and their slight
      little film suffers as a consequence.

      Demme has (or had, at least in his early work) the ability to bring
      out the eccentricity and appeal of nearly all his characters, from
      main lead to smallest supporting role; in "Something Wild" his femme
      fatale Audrey (played by little-girl-voiced Melanie Griffith) was by
      turns funny, sexy, and by film's end not a little sad, considering
      the life she's led (and which Demme so deftly sketches for us
      throughout the course of his film); opposite her is Ray (Ray
      Liotta), her terrifyingly violent former husband--"Miranda" badly
      needs someone as scary as Ray, to goose things up, galvanize
      proceedings a little.

      Lynch's film gives us a stylized, even idealized vision of small-
      town life, then flips the bright surface over to show us the
      underside, seething with sexual sadism and subconscious horror. His
      femme fatale Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini), is one of the darkest
      victims ever shown on screen: brutally corrupted the same time she's
      pathetically vulnerable, she's like a rape victim as an object of
      desire; Lynch's villain Frank (Dennis Hopper), Dorothy's rapist, is
      the monster that gives the film its irrational dark power.
      MacLachlan in "Miranda," by way of comparison (please skip to the
      next paragraph if you plan to see the movie), remains what he was
      when the film began, a faintly promising, fairly amusing menace
      (though it's alarming to observe how much MacLachlan has aged--the
      hanging jowls, the baggy eyes--and still remains somehow boyish,
      immature; a sagging Peter Pan who refuses to grow up in his head).

      Cristina Ricci isn't the obvious choice to play Miranda--she has the
      figure, but perhaps not the apparent beauty or surface allure. She
      does grow into the role--she has the mysterious reserve you remember
      when she played Wednesday in the Addams Family movies, and the
      requisite enthusiasm and lack of inhibitions when naked in bed with
      Frank. As she shows her different sides to Frank--some true, some
      false, some apparently true that later turn out false--she has the
      kind of eerie aplomb to carry off her apparently self-contradictory,
      possibly underwritten character successfully.

      "Miranda" isn't an especially bad film, or even a mediocre one; you
      can appreciate the skill with which it was made, the same time you
      appreciate the--I don't know how to put it--lack of passion, or
      failure of imagination that keeps this film from being anything more
      than simply "decently made" or "interesting." The cast--appealing
      Simms, mysterious Ricci, always amusing Hurt, alarmingly aged
      MacLachlan--add much to the film's pleasures, but ultimately don't
      help it transcend the niche it has made for itself. Not bad, but not
      particularly memorable.

      (First printed in Businessworld, July 18, 2003)

      (Comments? Email me at noelbotevera@...)
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