Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Joshua (2007)

I have to admit, I didn’t know what to expect from this movie. I had heard about how it was a cross between Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen. I don’t know if that got my hopes up or what, but frankly, outside of the quality number of special features on this DVD, I was extremely disappointed in this movie. This highly anticipated thriller directed by George Ratliff received broad ranges of reviews when released. Some presented Joshua as a thinking person’s thriller and others as a waste of time.

Joshua follows the changes in the Carin family after the birth of a daughter. This young family has a son, Joshua who is a talented protégé pianist. What transpires is enough twists and turns to keep you thinking through out the movie. As strange things happen to the family and Abby, Joshua’s mother played brilliantly by Vera Farmiga begins to develop signs of postnatal depression, we the viewer are either totally confused by the poor script development, or amazed at the hodge podge of story we see on screen. One of the things I thought of is the concept some have in a fine art museum. When some view contemporary art, some see value, some are totally confused. Enter into the story an uncle we can’t figure out, and in-laws who are strong fundamental Christians and the story goes in so many directions it becomes difficult to stay focused.

One of the interesting story lines, not nearly developed enough is the interaction between the Carin family and their in-laws. Abby is Jewish and is married to Brad, played very well by Sam Rockwell. As Abby begins to show signs of either a previous mental illness, or postnatal depression we see the involvement of Brad’s parents. Especially involved is the grandmother, Hazel, played brilliantly by Celia Weston. Hazel has issues that the children have not been baptized and is emphatic about finding ways to have Joshua become a Born Again Christian. Joshua, while seemingly responsive has other intentions. If anything is certain about this movie, Joshua is one confused little boy, confused so much so we have a hard time determining if he is a role model in an Occult sort of way, or if he is just a confused and possibly abused child. None of those questions are ever answered, and it is a script that depends on the viewer to write most of the story line with their own imagination.

There are so many weaknesses to the plot and story development it would be hard to say anything positive. If positive attributes are there, they are in the casting and acting. Sam Rockwell, Vera Farmiga, Celia Weston and young newcomer Jacob Kogan as Joshua are wonderful. The cinematography, sound, and music are also wonderful, but the story is just horrific. I was hoping to get some additional insight from the special features on the DVD, but despite a good number of special features, there is no new insight provided outside of the directors’ commentary. Even here, while I normally enjoy this feature, it was like torture having to see and hear this feature.

There are so many concepts I would have loved to see developed further. There is the apparent desire for the director to present some form of supernatural spiritual thriller. Unfortunately it never developed. From a deeply fundamentalist Christians desire to see her grandchildren converted to Christianity, even a scene in church where an apparent salvation takes place, to the difficulties between Jewish and Christian blended marriages. We see all kinds of issues addressed that could have provided some measure of thought provoking commentary, unfortunately, these themes are used as background and never seems to get on track and find a point in the plot development. While the religious themes could have provided some thought provoking questions, I was disappointed in the lack of development.

Joshua is a strange sort of movie and DVD. There are great special features, great acting, quality sound, great cinematography, but an incredibly boring, and confusing movie. I had a hard time watching and enjoying this movie. It is not a movie I can recommend, even if just renting it. That is sad because of the wasted talent displayed on screen. I sincerely hope to see more of the principals in the future, especially Vera Farmiga but I can promise you, I won’t watch this again. I guess I’m just not smart enough to see all of the things everyone else did that thought Joshua was a brilliant masterpiece. Then again, maybe my schizophrenic tendencies hadn’t set in yet.

On a scale of 1 – 10, for the terrible time I had watching it and the confusing plot lines, I give a disappointing 4, one for each of the principal actors who did their part.

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