Friday, August 8, 2014

Arlington Road (1999)

IMDb plot summary: A college professor begins to suspect that his neighbour is a terrorist.
Directed by Mark Pellington. Starring Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, and Hope Davis.

(Spoilers ahead about the movie's tone, particularly the ending.)

This movie REALLY wants to be taken seriously. With a few dramatic moments discussing themes of paranoia and forgiveness, not to mention its ending, the film clearly wants to be a deep, thoughtful crime drama, and 45 minutes or so into into the film, I had some hope it would be.

Here's the problem, though: A good chunk of the movie is clearly just fluffy thriller nonsense. Jeff Bridges is a good actor and Tim Robbins can be in the right role, but here they're almost hilariously over-the-top nearly all the time. That, combined with the unbelievable coincidences and plot jumps that scoot the story along much too abruptly, requires a certain suspension of disbelief, the same kind that is needed for much sillier movies like Crank. But then they snap back out of that campy paranoia back into what's supposed to be a hard-hitting ending, and it just... doesn't work at all.

I suspect that wasn't a deliberate choice. More likely, the writer/director just didn't see the goofiness of the entire middle section and thought they actually WERE creating a hard-hitting drama. But it's just too silly and unbelievable, and as a result, all the "serious" moments become unintentionally comedic. (I giggled at quite a few moments I suspect I was supposed to take seriously.)

1.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1428 out of 2194, below Zero Charisma and above 17 Miracles.

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