Saturday, March 30, 2013

Movie Review: Vertigo

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: The first half is interesting
Cons: The second half is bad, bad, bad
The Bottom Line:
The best Hitchcock film?
Doesn't remotely come close
He made better films




The Dullest Thriller I've Ever Seen

I have only seen a couple of Hitchcock's films, and frankly, I've been less then impressed. They've been overrated and just plain weird. Recently, I've decided I need to give him another chance, so I set out to watch a few more Hitchcock films. Since Vertigo is so praised, I thought I'd start there. Boy was I disappointed.

The story revolves around Scottie (James Stewart), a police officer forced to retire due to injuries and his dizzying fear of heights. His old friend Gavin (Tom Helmore) needs his services, however. Gavin's wife Madeleine (Kim Novak) appears to be going crazy. She wanders around town but has no recollection of where she went or why she went there. What really worries Gavin is that Madeleine is at the same age her great-grandmother committed suicide by jumping to her death.

Scottie eventually agrees to the job, but doesn't put much stalk in the theory that Madeleine is possessed. At least at first he doesn't. Is she really possessed? Can Scottie save her life?

And does the audience care? I certainly didn't.

The biggest problem with the movie is the story. It starts out okay, just moves very slowly. I was drawn into the early story wondering what was really happening to Madeleine. That is, when the plot moved forward. I mean, we get shot after shot of Scottie following Madeleine around San Francisco. We get it already! We don't need to see every turn they make through the city. Just get them to their destination! Still, the first half earns the film its second star.

But then the second half comes and things go down hill. It's obvious to us early on what is happening, so we get bored waiting for the characters to catch up. And the climax? There isn't one. The story ends with a whimper.

And then there's the fact that this is supposed to be a thriller. I have a fear of heights myself, so I thought this one would get to me. Never once was I scared. As I've already said, the pace was slow for most of the film, so I wasn't even on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen next. I was just waiting for it to end.

Compounding the problem is the acting. The performances start out fine. But the curse of the second half gets them, too. As the story gets weirder, the performances get more and more laughable. I'm sure that's partially because the characters start doing unbelievable things. But the actors begin to be so over the top it threw me out of the film.

For me to enjoy a story, I have to at least like a character. While there were some I started out liking, by the end I hated them all. That certainly doesn't help.

Now some praise the movie on its technical merits. And there are some weird camera angles used to great effect. But camera angles do not a great movie make.

Some also talk about how the film mirrors Hitchcock's own obsessions. That is all well and good, but it's not the reason I go to a film. I go to a film to be entertained, not to watch a director have very expensive therapy.

I'm beginning to see why I haven't seen that many Hitchcock films before. If Vertigo is an example of what I have to look forward to, I won't be watching many more.

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