Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Ledge

"The Ledge," in its basic plot and structure, stands as both convoluted and banal, but until about the final ten minutes I was pretty sure that it had a saving grace: it dealt with religion in a way outside of the norm. However, after having seen how the whole film plays out, I'm not sure exactly what the film's stance on faith is, and I think that's a problem. Even when it seems like it's achieving some degree of clarity, "The Ledge" is really dancing around the issue. There are a couple moments in the film where this is obviously happening (where writer/director Matthew Chapman tries to supply levity about it by conflating it with vulgarity), but I thought that ultimately the film had really worked things out. Such was not the case.

The way the film unfolds imitates many other recent films and fails to achieve success. Gavin (Charlie Hunnam, a goofy romantic presence with bad haircut and voice not unlike the kid in this) seems to be one of those routine cases, a jumper on the ledge of a building who can be coaxed off with much pleading from a cop, in this case Hollis (Terrence Howard). Nope, he's not normal, as you probably guessed. He's a hotel manager or something who has gotten into an affair with Shauna (Liv Tyler), who's married to an ultra-strict Born Again Christian named Joe (an extremely corny Patrick Wilson). Gavin gets to know Shauna through her position as a maid at the hotel, and also because she lives across the hall from him. This proximity leads to much "temptation," as Joe would look at it. Not to mention much intramural tension, as Joe, when the two meet at dinner and a "philosophy discussion," comes to get pissed about Gavin's very pronounced lack of faith and apparent homosexuality. Each thinks the other is "cold-hearted," though, while Joe would suggest conversion to Evangelical Christianity and being "saved," Gavin's way of solving that turns out to be trying to help out Shauna. This comes to bear disastrous consequences.

I'm not really sure what Chapman is trying to prove here, other than that different people have different views of faith, which couldn't be more clear. He doesn't seem to understand that you can't really make a movie about a subject like this and avoid the responsibility of having to say something about it. The vacant conclusiveness of the end scene, which is part of a subplot to further the idea that really everybody has problems (except for gay secondary characters), really reveals that the film has no particular thesis; that's a big problem. To add to that, despite its somewhat out-of-the-ordinary dialogue about doctrine, "The Ledge" doesn't have original ways of presenting information, and we are subject to the usual confessional stories about what sins these people committed in the past that defined their lives. I have to admit, "The Ledge" has more value than I thought it was possible for it to have. That being said, I'm still disappointed that it came up short, as it realizes some but (importantly) not all of its opportunities. C+

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