Gathering, TheReviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 02/06/07 00:59:05
Number 47 on my list of Things To Do If I Ever Get a Time Machine: Go back to the early years of this new century and tell people not to make movies with Christina Ricci, because a) those movies will be very, very lousy, and b) those movies are destined to go unreleased for years until the studio (usually a studio run by those wacky Weinstein brothers) finally decides to dump ’em onto DVD just to get rid of them.Loudly and emotionally would I warn the cast and crew of such ill-fated projects as “Miranda,” “Prozac Nation,” “Cursed,” and “I Love Your Work,” informing them with great passion how nobody will get around to seeing these flicks for at least a year or two, or three, or, in the case of “The Gathering,” a full five.
Not that anybody who made “The Gathering” has been clamoring for it to finally see the light of day. It’s a dreadfully empty-headed snooze of a thriller that awkwardly mixes religious conspiracy, psychic visions, “shocking” sudden violence, and dull mystery. After seeing the thing, I walk away knowing two facts, both of them car-accident-related. One: If you crash your car on the highway in England, nobody will stop to help you; in fact, the other drivers will honk at you in anger, many of them even trying to just run you over, “Death Race 2000”-style, as you attempt to crawl from the wreckage. Two: If you hit Christina Ricci with your car, she’ll pretty much be OK with it. Both of these facts are quite useful, especially while driving in England or around Ricci’s neighborhood.
Following a pointless prologue in which two sex-crazed teenagers fall into a pit and die (don’t ask), the story opens as average mom Marion Kirkman (Kerry Fox) plows over American tourist Cassie (Ricci) while driving through the woods. Cassie, it turns out, comes out of the incident with only a couple of scratches and slight memory loss: she can’t remember why she has come to England.
The Kirkmans are so upset by the whole thing that Marion invites Cassie to stay with them for a few weeks, at least long enough for the plot to kick in. But which plot, exactly? Is it the plot about Cassie’s strange, violent visions, in which she sees the Kirkman kids all bloody? Is it the plot about Mr. Kirkman (Stephen Dillane), who works for the church and who is investigating a group of people who seem to pop up every time there’s a major tragedy, dating back to the crucifixion of Jesus? Or is it the plot involving hunky neighbor Dan Blakely (Ioan Gruffudd), who helps Cassie investigate a villager with a sex scandal in his past and a potential shooting spree in his future?
You might be wondering how these storylines could possibly connect well enough to make a watchable movie. The answer, simply, is that they don’t. The screenplay, from British TV vet Anthony Horowitz (“Midsomer Murders,” “Poirot”), jumps back and forth and back again with no sense of rhythm, tension, or even mild interest. Important points are hinted at then dismissed, only for the script to return to them long after we stopped caring. (By the time the script resolves Cassie’s amnesia, we’ve forgotten it was even an issue.) The whole thing leads up to that shooting spree, only it’s not at all involving, especially when Horowitz tries, unconvincingly, to tie in the other plotlines.
Looking back, I can’t even recall what was going on for at least half the movie, in terms of a solid, coherent story. This may be because, rumors has it, the film was drastically re-cut during its five-year tenure as a space-filler on the Weinstein shelves, with running time trimmed and naughty sex scenes removed. Even at its original length, I can’t imagine how anything here could have possibly been as thrilling, scary, fascinating, spooky, or good as the movie thinks it must be. If it wasn’t just as tiresome before the retooling, it probably would have been released by now.
Besides, you can ruin a story with editing, but you can’t ruin what was always a bunch of terrible performances, Ricci’s key among them. Here, she’s lumbering and inept, offering the worst performance of her career. She seems openly disinterested in the whole mess, barreling through her dialogue with no regard to the character, just so long as she can wrap things up before dinner.Those around her, meanwhile, seem so unsure of what the screenplay is attempting that they collectively trudge along at half speed, figuring somebody will add in the tension later. It only adds to the sloppiness of the project, leaving us with the sort of mess that probably could have used another five years on the shelf.
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