Tuesday, August 18, 2009

ORPHAN - Not For The Discerning Viewer

ORPHAN (psychological thriller)
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, CCH Pounder and Jimmy Bennett
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Time: 120 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Farmiga and Fuhrman in ORPHAN

PREAMBLE: Throughout the first hour of Orphan, I was in a state of disbelief. How could the film-makers work with such an implausible, low-IQ and bizarre plot? Then I stopped thinking about the movie as boredom crept in. However, when the big revelation presented itself near the end, it begged analysis - but instead of explaining the events of the earlier part, it makes the whole movie even more stupid.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Suburban couple Kate and John Coleman (Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard) are looking for a third child following the stillborn death of a daughter. Kate has a history of problems with alcohol abuse, but she seems to be in control now. The couple's deaf daughter, Max (Aryana Engineer), is eager for a sister, while their son, Daniel (Jimmy Bennett), is less enthusiastic.

Kate and John visit an orphanage and fall in love with Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), a bright, articulate, and polite nine-year old. At first, she seems to be a wonderful addition to the family, learning sign language to communicate with Max, sharing Kate's love of music, and bonding with John. However, when she's picked on by the pupils at school, a darker aspect of her personality begins to emerge.

HITS & MISSES: The first 30 minutes of Orphan are rather dry, consisting of mundane stuff with nary a scare or laughter. Kate had problems with alcohol and John had some sexual indiscretions. Big deal, that's about half of America! The adoption of Esther is done with such expediency that it is like adopting a pet cat.

However, Fuhrman's Esther manages to generate enough curiosity to take us to its first 'bizarre happening' - which puts the movie in its 18-PL level. As the bizarre happenings continue, credulity is strained and we start to question the plot. Like, can Kate and John be so obtuse and not notice the body language of Max and Daniel when they are 'under threat'? The main cast - Farmiga, Sarsgaard, Fuhrman, Engineer and Bennett - are good, though, and they help to make this movie more interesting than it really is. I am especially fond of little Aryana Engineer who reminds me of young Dakota Fanning and Drew Barrymore (in E.T.).

THE LOWDOWN: It's watchable if you are not bothered about logic and credibility.


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