The Number 23
I know I harp on about my like of Jim Carrey in serious roles, but I can't help it, I do. When that guy puts aside his comic persona and gives us a real acting performance we can be in for a treat, a strong character that's usually very accessible. Of course it does depend on the script, but for the most part this is true.
Then there is Virginia Madsen, a woman who radiates natural beauty and just captivates onscreen, she really reminds me of the traditional Hollywood star, and she's a great actress. The problem is that she's often given such stand aside roles. Then there's the wonderfully charismatic Danny Huston.
All these things seemed to be promised in the right amounts in this film, and I was grabbed by the hook of the story. Could The Number 23 deliver?
Once again many thanks to the team at Edinburgh's Ocean Vue Cinema for giving me such great help in these reviews and such warm welcomes. It certainly is a fantastic cinema.
Now, let's get back to the film. The Number 23 is an interesting story about a man who is given a gift of a book which is simply called 23. His wife comes across it accidentally as she is waiting for him to collect her one evening, and passes it on.
While he's off work he begins reading it and becomes hooked by the story, actually obsessed by the story and the idea that 23 is a number of fate, or of evil. He begins to believe that the character in the book is actually him and the story is about his life.
Slowly the obsession grows and it begins to affect those around him, and as the book and the character plunge further into the mystery of 23, so does he.
The first downside of the film is that Huston isn't in the film for long, and when he is he just glides over his lines or passes through the shot, as such a great actor and potential character he seems a bit sidelined as though parts of his role were cut out from the film.
Carrey and Madsen are both very strong in their performances, and the good news is that Madsen is given a decent chunk of a role. What is slightly disappointing is that Carrey never really seems to get above a strong performance, I really expected more from him and yet the acting is good, but not great.
Now a lot of that is down to the story itself and what Carrey has to work with. He does do a great job of convincing us he's a normal guy and also of showing us some of the stages of his descent into the obsessive personality, but there's something not quite there with the transition, and there's something not quite right with the performance, and it's really hard to put your finger on.
It seems that key moments pass by like other moments in the film and you aren't feeling the tension and suspense that the filmmaker wants you to at that moment. There's no great dramatic impact, and there's a failure of the film to really draw you into the character.
I was watching and beginning to understand, and when all was revealed it was technically a surprise, in other words I hadn't actually guessed it was going to go in that direction, so it did blindside me. Normally that would constitute a big win for the film, but although the storyline did surprise me, there really wasn't a surprise. There wasn't that startling moment of revelation, I didn't suddenly have my feelings for a character ripped apart, or find that the path I'd been so eagerly following suddenly fall from beneath me, because it didn't do any of these things.
Looking back on it, the film felt more like what Americans would describe as a show and tell. We were being hand fed the story scene by scene, and there wasn't work done to really pull us into the story from the start.
This is something which I noticed from the opening credits. During the credits we are indoctrinated to the mystic properties of the number 23 by series of facts about it being shown, such as humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, blood pumps round the body every 23 seconds, the Mayans predicted the world would end on December 23rd 2012, the Hiroshima bomb was dropped at 08:15 - 8+15 = 23, the Twin Towers were attacked on 9/11/2001 - 9+11+2+0+0+1 = 23, and so on. With the number of coincidences it shows us you'd think that by the end of it you'd be hooked into the paranoia, well not really. The problem is they flash by so quickly, or take so long to reveal that their time is up and they've gone before you can completely read them.
So by the end of the title sequence, which was presumably meant to hook you into the mystery, you're sitting there thinking that you might have caught one, perhaps something about Bush, 9/11 or Witches.
So we're not with the concept at the start of the film, and so when the lead character leaps into the fore and grabs hold of the concept almost immediately I found I was struggling to connect with his acceptance. I wasn't there, so how could he be? Then he starts to believe that the main character is him, and yet even we are sitting there on the side of his wife thinking, "what are you on?" as he presents the flimsiest of connections, and only one or two at that.
Soon after he is fully obsessed with the whole phenomena and I found I was sitting there realising I had been left behind somewhere between the opening titles and his first reading of the book. Interestingly my viewing partner thought exactly the same.
So, you get the idea now, so let's put to the side the story and look at the film. It's here that it gets some well needed credits, for the cinematography is well done, it's dark and filled with rich colours. It does look really good on screen, whether we're in scenes of the real world, or the fantasy one from the book.
It's actually the book's scenes that are the most attractive to the eye, and it's a shame that these aren't progressed more. We have a few scenes which link to the real world, but no real development to mirror that of the main character. By the end of the film I felt like it was an unnecessary journey and that there didn't seem any reason to show them at all.
That said, I did like the style of the film throughout, although particularly during the imagined book scenes. The film was actually good, but it never elicited the passion or suspense that the main character was feeling or portraying, it never hooked the audience in enough to make them feel the twists and turns, rather just watch them pass by. It was very clever, but it did fail to capture your imagination.
What was great was that the ending wasn't all Hollywood, and there were still some nice moments to be had even in the closing scenes. Yet I can't help but think that there was so much wasted potential and opportunity, and that we had some excellent actors (and actress) put to poor use through a less than perfect script.
Edinburgh Ocean Vue Cinema
UK IMDB Film Details
I'm excited to be going to see this tomorrow, and it really does look good. Powerful, gritty, and strong social commentary, wrapped up with Bob Hoskins, Sean Bean and Danny Dyer. Oh, and guns.
When I first started seeing these trailers ages ago, nothing really grabbed me about them, but the passage of time has been good to it and it does appear much more attractive than before. Perhaps there is something to be had from this magician's tale.
Here's another trailer that has managed to pick up some pace over time. Although it hadn't changed from when I first saw it, since the press has died down about it I'm actually thinking this might be worthwhile seeing, and that Justin Timberlake's performance might not be as bad as they say.
I think the trailer fails to convey any power or impending threat to the characters. I just felt myself wondering if I had worked out what the story was or not, and missing the dramatic elements of the trailer. I'm not sure this is going to be a big film as the stars might suggest.