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Breaking and Entering
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Have You Hugged Your Bosnian Refugee Today?"
2 stars

Late in the game in “Breaking and Entering,” a character remarks “I don’t know how to be honest. Maybe that is why I like metaphors.” Based on the evidence supplied here, writer-director Anthony Minghella has a similar problem when it comes to storytelling. As a result, what should have been a simple story about a group of outwardly disparate people trying to come to terms with their lives has been puffed up into an overly metaphorical mess in which virtually every character and story element is so choked with portent that the whole thing looks like a fire sale at Symbols R Us and what should have been a slam-dunk bit of Oscar bait for The Weinstein Company has become just another title to be dumped with virtually no notice once the expected nominations failed to pan out.

Jude Law stars as Will Francis, a successful young architect who, along with partner Sandy (Martin Freeman), has just opened a lavish new office in King’s Cross, a London neighborhood that is on the verge of being gentrified but which is currently still an area with low incomes and a high crime rate. The night after a party celebrating the opening, a young Bosnian refugee named Miro (Rafi Gavron) uses his incredible balletic skills in order to break into the building and steal the valuable electronics inside for the local crime kingpin, keeping only a laptop computer containing videos of Will, common-law wife Liv (Robin Wright Penn) and her autistic daughter Bea (Poppy Rogers) . A few nights later, after all the equipment is replaced, Miro breaks in a second time and steals everything again. After this second incident, Will decides to stake the building himself in an effort to catch the thief red-handed. For a few nights, all he catches is the attention of tough-talking prostitute Oana (Vera Farmiga), who invites herself into his car and supplies both coffee and advice.

Finally, Will catches Miro in the act and chases him back to the shabby apartment that the kid shares with his mother, Amira (Juliette Binoche), who toils away as a low-paid seamstress and struggling to keep her son out of trouble while grieving for the loss of her husband back in Bosnia. Under normal circumstances, Will would call the police and Miro would be arrested for his multiple break-ins. Of course, such an action would lead to the movie ending after 45 minutes so Will chooses not to report it. Instead, feeling bored and shut off from Liv and Bea, Will contrives to meet Amira and the two begin to strike an unlikely friendship. Before long, Amira discovers who Will really is and enacts a plan to ensure that he will not report Miro to the cops.

Over the last decade, Anthony Minghella, who started out as the director of such quirky original works as “Truly, Madly, Deeply” and “Mr Wonderful,” has been carving a name for himself as the man behind such tony literary adaptations as “The English Patient,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Cold Mountain.” With “Breaking and Entering,” he is working from his first original screenplay in over a decade and based on the evidence here, he seems to have lost the ability to tell a story without having the narrative already laid out for him in advance. Here, his story just lurches about in a clumsy manner that seems actively designed to keep people from embracing it. The central character is a self-absorbed jerk–which wouldn’t be that much of a problem if he were an interesting self-absorbed jerk–and his actions throughout strain credibility to the breaking point. Most of the other characters aren’t characters at all–they come across more as symbolic creations from a 100-level creative writing class in desperate need of a rewrite–and once Minghella throws them all together towards the end, he can’t think of anything for them to do other than apologize endlessly to each other.

Since Minghella’s last three films have each earned a large number of Oscar nominations, it is not surprising that many top actors would take the opportunity to work with him. With this film, he has once again accumulated an impressive cast but considering the thinness of the material, I can only presume that they all signed on before actually reading a script. In his third collaboration with the director (after “The Talented Mr Ripley” and “Cold Mountain”), Jude Law is as much bad as he is completely miscast–he is never believable for a second as an angsty yuppie, a compulsive do-gooder or even as an architect. Juliette Binoche is a little better as Amira but she is stuck playing a character so laden down with oppressive symbolism that she fairly sags under the weight. As for Robin Wright Penn, her character is so painfully ill-defined and superfluous to the proceedings that you wonder why Minghella even bothered to hire her in the first place.

The only cast member who comes out “Breaking and Entering” smelling like a rose is Vera Farmiga as the plucky prostitute–the character is just as bewildering and unbelievable as the others but Farmiga invests her with just the right amount of wit and energy to transform a walking cliche into a living, breathing thing. Alas, just when you think that something interesting might be about to happen, Minghella nips that in the bud by eliminating the character from the second half altogether. Casting her was the smartest thing that Minghella did in connection with this film and then letting her get away like that was easily the dumbest.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15166&reviewer=389
originally posted: 02/09/07 02:09:15
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/22/17 Louise (the real one) I got bored before it got even half-way through. 1 stars
4/05/07 William Goss Starts well, succumbs to mediocre melodrama, with too tidy an ending. Farmiga fares best. 3 stars
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  15-Dec-2006 (R)
  DVD: 08-May-2007



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