SAVAGE GRACE(Tom Kalin). 96 minutes. Opens Friday (July 4). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NN
What has Tom Kalin been doing since his groundbreaking “new queer cinema” classic, Swoon? Not much, judging by this turgid piece of pretentious pap.
Inspired by a real-life case of incest, murder and other fun things among the jet set, Savage Grace feels like a painfully arty adaptation of a Dominick Dunne Vanity Fair piece, or a Wes Anderson movie without the laughs. Intentional laughs, that is.
The Baekeland family consists of father Brooks (Stephen Dillane), descendant of the inventor of plastic, his wife, Barbara (Julianne Moore), and son Tony (Eddie Redmayne). When Brooks abandons the dysfunctional nest, mother and son get a little too close.
Kalin has structured the film like an epic, complete with neo-Wagnerian score. But the movie crumbles under the stilted dialogue and portentous symbols. Epic’s hard to do on an indie film budget; the scenes supposedly set in Paris and London are mostly darkly lit interiors. If you’re trying to capture the moral decay of the bored upper classes, at least let us soak in the atmosphere.
And while you’re at it, give us some compelling dialogue. The actors need restraining – even Moore, who should be in her element as the neurotic mother but can’t find the right rhythms to add grace to her savagery.