Sundance – The Woman
The Woman is written, directed, and portrayed with a heavy hand. When everything is done with speakers blasting, and not just the soundtrack, then it is hard to have any moment of surprise without blowing an eardrum. I can’t say people won’t like the film, because I heard chuckles in the audience. And even I jumped a few times at the wild, dirty grimaces that flashed on the screen. But the whole bloody mess felt like just that: a bloody mess. Is The Woman a horror film? Is it a dark comedy? I don’t think it can be both, or at least director Lucky McKee struck out trying to do it here. McKee is talented, and I felt there were glimpses of real suspense throughout the film, but it was all lost by the end. Violence has become so saturated in film these days that it can purposefully be made comical. But the psychological, physical, sexual, and emotional domestic violence portrayed in the film is just not something that can be laughed at, no matter how deep the social commentary one can read between the lines.
Chris Cleek, a lawyer by day, comes home to an enslaved family. Sean Bridgers, who portrays Cleek, plays the psychopathic nut job very well. Cleek tells his family to do his chores, to cook his food, and to obey his every whim without question. And they do. Silently his wife and two daughters fall into line out of fear, or in the case of his son, out of awe. The film juxtaposes each of the character’s story lines so we can see how they have been abused and why they are so afraid. “Do something! Escape! Fight back!” We are supposed to say, and become more frustrated when they do nothing. This is the message ringing in our ears, and one that I believe is worthy of film. But not like this. Just as the story of the Holocaust should not be a comedy, neither should domestic violence. But again I digress.
Cleek goes out hunting one morning and spies a bathing wild woman in a stream. After forcing his family to clean up the cellar, he clubs her and chains her there. Then he makes–that’s right–his family look after the woman. Then he rapes her. Then his wife finally tries to stand up to him and she gets gut checked two or three times, etc. etc. Eventually there is a bloodlust finale you couldn’t predict and an ending that’s preposterous. The end.
There are some scary parts, and some body parts, and some parts that try to be funny, and all the parts try to be great, poignant commentary together. But it just doesn’t work.
There have been some pretty extreme reactions to The Woman at the festival so far. Check this dude out, he just loses it.