by Rob DiCristino
Make way for the Thundering Badass.
Spoilers for Resurrection ahead.
For some actors, success comes early. Bright-eyed and baby-faced, they leap onto the scene with just the indescribable x-factor that we’ve all been waiting for. We watch their careers blossom and contract at the whim of an unforgiving popular culture, waiting to see how they’ll weather those storms and into what shape that ridiculous pressure will pound them. Others take time to develop, approaching their artistic crescendo with more practiced, deliberate care. They’re doing the work, of course, toiling away in supporting parts and even forcing the issue with a screenplay or directing project of their own. And though Rebecca Hall is hardly new on the scene — acting since childhood and earning recognition way back with The Prestige
and The Town
— it’s reasonable to say that she’s finally hitting her stride with stirring turns in genre fare like Christine
and The Night House
, as well as in her directorial debut, last year’s robust and thoughtful Passing
. She’s becoming synonymous with a great time at the movies, well worth Resurrection
's ticket price all on her own.
The sophomore feature from Andrew Semans (Nancy, Please
stars Hall as manicured corporate executive Margaret, whose life is in perfect order: Meetings, presentations, a jog at lunch, a casual affair with a married co-worker, and a tight relationship with teenage daughter Abbie (Grace Kaufman), who’s poised to leave the nest for college any day now. Margaret seems to cruise through life with ease, but when a mysterious figure from her past (the great Tim Roth as David) begins appearing around town, Margaret’s veneer of stability begins to crumble. Though David is hardly violent or confrontational, his psychological hold is deep and immediately immovable. He begins seeping back into Margaret’s bloodstream, gradually manipulating her behavior more and more until Abbie and her friends hardly recognize her. She becomes manic, unstable, lashing out against invisible enemies and insisting that she’ll kill anyone who stands in her way. She deteriorates rapidly from there, unable to break from David's influence and unsure if she even wants to.
Though terms like “gaslighting” and “grooming” have been diluted to near-meaninglessness by overuse online in recent years, Resurrection
is an eerily authentic and compelling example of those phenomena in action. Margaret has a clear intellectual understanding of her objective reality, but simple queues from David have the power to corrupt that reality into something else, something rooted in emotion and insecurity. As a teenager, Margaret proved her worth to the much-older David through what he called “kindnesses,” errands and tasks that ranged from washing dishes to walking barefoot from place to place. These kindnesses would seem innocuous — even pointless — to an outsider, but they were key to instilling in Margaret that need to prove herself to David to earn his affection. Even years later — long after she’d fled their chaotic romance and managed to deprogram herself — the mere mention of a “kindness” is enough to provoke a reaction. With only words, David is able to dismantle Margaret’s entire life and, worse yet, make her feel as if that’s what she wants to happen.
And although it’s easy enough to feel sympathy for Margaret from a comfortable remove, Resurrection
’s real trick is its ability to blur those lines for the audience, as well. Semans allies us so closely with Margaret’s point of view early on that we almost don’t see her slipping until it’s too late. She feels in control until she isn’t. She acts rationally until she doesn’t. Hall is so staid and composed in her performance that we have to start looking behind her eyes before we can see what Abbie and the others find so troubling. That’s what makes David powerful: His influence is invisible. He plants the seed, but it’s Margaret herself who nurtures it, who shapes it into an unassailable truth. Hall plays these transformations magnificently, especially in a surreal final moment that recalls Psycho
. But it’s Roth’s quiet severity that fuels his co-star’s madness, his calm, hypnotic insistence that he knows what’s best for her despite the ludicrousness of his demands. Both performances are tempered perfectly, creating a vicious closed loop that feels impossible to escape.
All this patient escalation helps Resurrection
earn its brutal climax, one that many will dismiss as a step too far out of reality. But normalizing the barbaric and insane is exactly what Margaret has been driven to do, and a more understated ending would miss an opportunity to highlight the depths of her delusions. Deep down, we want to see her reach some kind of catharsis, even if that means diving headfirst into an alternate universe. Good psychological thrillers like Resurrection
thrive on that ambiguity, an acceptance that sometimes our imagined worlds, though built on lies, are preferable to the harsh truths of the real one. They even press us on the very nature of those supposed “objective” truths: Can we wish something good into existence? Does assimilating with trauma give us control over it? Can a person ever really change if they don’t want to? Resurrection
plays with these ideas without grinding them into the ground, leaving Margaret’s ultimate fate up for interpretation and, perhaps more importantly, further cementing Rebecca Hall as a new genre mainstay.
hits theaters Friday and On Demand services on August 5th.
Great review! Especially love this: "She feels in control until she isn’t. She acts rationally until she doesn’t." I watched this back when Sundance was doing the online stuff and was blown away by her performance. Which, I shouldn't have been because I KNEW she could do it, but she's so raw and honestly scary. If I remember correctly there's a scene where she's yelling at someone (either her daughter or her boyfriend, can't remember which) and her voice kind of changes to a deep tone and it scared the crap out of me. Loved the ending. Why NOT end your movie like that?ReplyDelete