A Dangerous Method
Directed by David Cronenberg
Considering David Cronenberg's past 3 directorial efforts (Spider, A History Of Violence, and Eastern Promises), expectations were high for this potentially great biopic. Sadly, it did not deliver.
Every year around November, we witness a parade of awards season movies: standard biopics, social/political commentary, etc. A Dangerous Method fits perfectly into the first category. It fits so well, in fact, that it is hard to distinguish it from the rest. The term 'Oscar-bait' immediately springs to mind when describing this movie and its intentions, but due to the (unsurprisingly) lukewarm reception and lack of Oscar attention it has received, could easily be looked at as a failed in that department.
And it's not hard to see why. With standard sets, costumes, camera-work, and plot progression, A Dangerous Method is an atypical historical bio -- not even the performances stood out. Michael Fassbender (who, due to his considerable talent, seems to be everywhere nowadays) delivers an uninspired leading performance as Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, with Mortensen providing excellent support as Sigmund Freud. Easily delivering the best performance in the picture, Mortensen's personification still isn't enough to escalate this movie beyound the realms of flawed mediocrity, as his performance could easily be viewed as nothing more than a caricaturization of the famed neurologist. Still, his performance is the highlight of the film.
Now, on to the weakest aspect of the movie. Keira Knightley's spastic performance as Jung's Russian mental patient is one of the most over-the-top performances I've ever seen in my life. Everything about her performance is shallow, from her grotesque attempt at a Russian accent (which rivals Cate Blanchett's inconsistently horrible accent in Indiana Jones), to her distractingly convulsive mannerisms, nothing about her seemed at all realistic. When someone is acting, you shouldn't be able to tell that they are. Her acting becomes such a nuisance, I found myself longing for the calming presence of Mortensen, even if just to give me a break from her exaggerated eccentricities.
This same shallow nature envelopes not only Knightley's performance, but the entire movie. As a film, A Dangerous Method is nothing more than a black and white sketch where there could have been a masterpiece. Providing little insight on ths subject and the characters, much of the dialogue feels like the rehearsed ramblings of intellectuals with no real purpose. Every relationship in the movie felt as forced as these bits of dialogue, making it nearly impossible to connect at all with any of the characters.
Given the subject matter and the talent involved, I was quite eager to see how this might turn out. But instead of being the fascinating, unconventional bio that it should have been, Cronenberg instead chose the safer path, creating a mundane drama, which provides little benefit for those willing to sit through it.