After watching The Tourist, I felt betrayed, like I had been lied to. Perhaps it’s unfair of me to have such high expectations for Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. After all, every director produces a bad film once in a while. But I feel so let down when I was expecting champagne, and he came through with wine out of a box. And like wine in a box, it’ll get you drunk, but you won’t enjoy drinking it. And you sure as hell feel ashamed buying it.
The Tourist, as you might have guessed, centers around a bland man named Frank, played by Johnny Depp. Upon arrival in Venice, it’s hinted he’s mourning the end of a relationship, he becomes involved with an extremely mysterious woman named Elise, the stunning Angelina Jolie. She could be a cop, she could be the spouse of one of Europe’s most wanted criminals, she could just be a criminal herself. All that’s immediately clear, is she’s using Frank as a decoy to get local Italian police and Interpol off her back. Then there is exactly the number of twists and surprises you would expect out of a hacky mystery novella (which Frank happens to be a huge fan of).
This is Donnersmarck third writing credit, although the first is for a short film. But there are absolutely no signs of his Academy Award-winning talent to be seen. As a European making his first American film, you’d expect certain explorations of the American/European relationship. Unfortunately, he choose to shamelessly pander to American audiences. Instead of the ‘ugly American’ stereotype, Italians are portrayed as ignorant, incompetent, disbelieving Frank, and the real danger he’s in, writing him off as one of those loud Americans with no tact. This is all that’s expected of the peripheral characters in the story. It’s disappointing that one of the best directors of Europe feels he must indulge us on this side of pond the in this way. Ultimately, if this was done in sincerity, it means he has a very, very negative view of American movie-goers.
I’ve heard complaints of Johnny Depp’s acting. Words like ‘wooden’, and ‘dull’ have been floating around. I couldn’t disagree more. Sure, his performance is subdued, and there’s no much panache, but he’s meant to be playing a community college professor of math. It seems to me, he nailed it: wooden, boring, dull. And it takes a certain something to even the keel when playing opposite Ms. Angelina Jolie, which he did just fine. Jolie is the only thing in the film more stunning than the scenery of Venice. I will concede that she’s not asked to do much other than wear expensive jewelry and clothes, and to be sure they drape well over her figure. This isn’t to say her character is underdeveloped. It’s exactly as developed as it should be in a thriller of this mid-range caliber.
It seems to me that the demographic The Tourist was created for will, for the most part, be satisfied with the besotted and sloppy plot (a plot that would never hold up under the lightest scrutiny). But even as a guilty pleasure, this film, and it’s outrageously obtuse ending should disappoint anyone not looking for the most meager level of escapism. You get a buy on this one, Donnersmarck. Don’t let it happen again.