THE WOMAN (2011) Review

Directed by: Lucky McKee
Starring: Angela Bettis, Sean Bridgers, Polyanna McIntosh

I've been hearing a lot about this movie in recent months, about how violent and shocking it is and I even watched the Youtube video of the guy walking out of the Sundance Film Festival disgusted with what he'd just seen. I finally got around to watching the trailer and honestly, it looked nothing like how it had been described. The only real reason I watched the movie is because it was directed by Lucky McKee and written by both him and Jack Ketchum, so I knew it would be at least a little out there. But apart from a few kind of surreal moments, it wasn't really as strange as I expected. And although the movie as a whole isn't really quite like anything you've seen before, it is composed of familiar aspects which have been seen in countless other films. The whole dysfunctional family thing, and the taming of the wild beast have been told with greater success in other movies, but when put together in this way it was a rather unique film.

The Cleek family appear on the surface to be a normal happy family, with Belle (Bettis) being the stay at home mum and looking after the three children, while Chris (Bridgers) is a successful lawyer with his own firm. But after Chris goes out hunting and discovers a savage woman in the forest, it soon becomes apparent that this is no normal family. He decides to capture this woman and keep her locked up in the cellar. He has taken it upon himself and his family to try and train her and 'civilize' her. Clearly the women of the family are horrified, but their inability to speak up shows just what kind of iron grip Chris has on his entire family. But as they say, like father like son and Chris' son Brian is not horrified at all. Just like his father he seems to think this is a great idea, and begins taking a much too unhealthy interest in their new 'project'
Things predictably go horribly wrong towards the end of the film, and the woman has her revenge.

If you're familiar with McKee's previous work then you may realize that he's a bit of a feminist filmmaker, and it's obvious throughout this film even though it is shown in a misogynistic way. And one of the clear messages within THE WOMAN is the perpetuation of domestic violence through the generations. This is most obvious in a few scenes where the young boy Brian tortures the woman, and then later is seen abusing another. I don't really like to delve too deep into these social commentaries.
Technically speaking the film is put together pretty well, but I did have a number of problems with it. First of all is the slow pace at which THE WOMAN limps along, and the fact that this time is not used to create suspense but rather focus on character development. Secondly is the soundtrack, which is composed of a bunch of alternative pop tracks that don't seem to match the mood of the film at all. And thirdly was the inconsistency of the acting. Everybody did a great job, except for Carlee Baker who played one of the children's teachers. Her acting was terrible, very awkward and distracting.

I'd say that this is probably a movie worth watching, if only for the fact that there is nothing else out there quite like it. But after all I heard about it, I have to say I was really disappointed. And if you're worried about the 'graphic torture and rape scenes' which the film is purported to have, then don't be. The rape scene is one of the most tame I've seen, and the torture is a thousand times worse in a thousand other movies I've seen.

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