(No longer in theaters)
Apr 18, 2008
In a vile-movie competition between Michael Haneke’s Funny Games and Vadim Perelman’s The Life Before Her Eyes, Haneke’s film would win—but only because he’s working so much harder to be noxious. Perelman, who also directed the punishing House of Sand and Fog, clearly regards himself as a life-affirming humanist: He lingers over bodies of bullet-ridden high-school students to drive home the idea that opening fire on random teenagers is a bad thing. Trapped by a sociopathic student along with her best friend (Eva Amurri) in a school bathroom, spunky 17-year-old Diana (Evan Rachel Wood) is forced to make a terrible choice—whereupon we cut to the anniversary of the tragedy fifteen years later, when the older Diana (Uma Thurman) is an art-history professor and the overprotective mother of a radiant little girl. Perelman moves back and forth between the younger Diana (whom he rather fetishizes) and the increasingly disoriented older one, with breaks for high-resolution shots of flowers, bees, etc., as well as that school-bathroom confrontation, which functions in the narrative like a striptease. If you haven’t caught on to the gimmick after ten minutes, the Zombies’ “She’s Not There” is all over the soundtrack. In between snorting and rolling your eyes, you can pass the time pitying Thurman, who has to emote in a vacuum, and admiring Wood—who is open and unaffected, the anti–Ellen Page.