Sunday, July 26, 2009
The Orphan-Just One Evil Little Bitch
Recent criticisms of the horror movie The Orphan are for the most part, let us say, out of all proportion to the films artistic merits. In fact, they have little, if anything whatsoever, to do with the film's artistic merits, regrettably, and almost everything to do with sociological matters which are wholly irrelevant.
Anymore, if you find a film objectionable, take heart. All you have to do is search through Twitter and there’s a chance you will find any number of people who share your views, and will go all out to do their part to insure the movie in question crashes and burns on its opening weekend. One case in point is the recent Sasha Baron Cohen film “Bruno”, which was roundly trashed on Twitter, so much to the point that it might have been the main factor behind the film’s dismal showing. Its first night garnered sixteen million dollars. Based in no small measure on what is probably the first unholy alliance between the Christian Right and gay activists, the following night’s take plunged to less than half of that.
Is this a portent of things to come? We might soon learn, depending on the overall performance of the latest offering in the evil child/bad seed horror genre, The Orphan.
The first half of the film is a psychological thriller. From there, the second half veers into what some might regard as a typical slasher flick. Some have complained about the movie’s length, clocking in just at two hours. Others have complained about too great a reliance on the standard horror film clichés that have become almost trite-the running up the stairs, the sudden apparition of evil in the closing medicine cabinet mirror, the suddenly ominous soundtrack that leads to absolutely nothing but dashed expectations, etc.
Moreover, of course, some have complained about the so-called gratuitous violence and, especially, the role of the title character itself, some pointing out that the level of violence and language exhibited by a character portrayed by a preteen child might even rise to the level of child abuse.
Mainly, however, the vast majority of the complaints center not on these, many of which are valid enough criticisms of the film on its artistic merits, but on the idea that this film is exploitative not only of little Miss Fuhrman and the other child stars, but of the whole idea of child adoption. Some adoption advocates have even called for a boycott. In a seeming effort to take up their cause, a film critic for the Washington Post has written what amounts to about one half of one percent film review, while the bulk of the hit piece is basically an editorial about the sociological implications of the film, which she calls a “piece of filth”.
A more balanced review (among many others) is posted by Kurt Loder on MTV, and I am happy to note that in the latest MTV on-line poll, the majority favor the prospect of seeing “Esther” over the other weekend offerings, The Orphan drawing well over fifty percent of the vote. This might well be a case of backlash against what many with not a little merit feel to be an unfair propaganda campaign run by yet another would-be entitled special interest group-adoption advocates.
A good gauge of the films actual impact and worth might well be the IMBD comments to the review itself. Out of a considerable number of posts, the vast majority seem to like the film to one degree or another. I never read one in fact that described it as a bad film.
Esther, the title character played by eleven year-old (at time of filming) actress Isabella Fuhrman, is one evil little bitch, but she somehow manages to worm her way into the hearts of adoptive parents John and Kate, despite the suspicions of the couple’s older son, who advises them at one point that they should send Esther “back to retard camp”. Before long, a box-cutter held strategically to his genitals convinces the suspicious little boy to put his dislike of his newly adopted sister in perspective.
Before long, though, other things happen, including the near murder of a neighbor’s child, which induces Kate to start viewing Esther with a great and growing deal of alarm. One wonders well before this point why alarm bells did not go off upon learning that Esther was the lone survivor of a house fire that destroyed her previous adoptive family. On the other hand, Esther, in addition to being a prodigy, is a charming little devil, not at all the way she appears in the film’s trailers (at least not at first). She has John suckered in a big way, to the point he is blind to the obvious and growing signs that, indeed, something might be wrong with Esther.
Eventually, in fact, Esther, the charming little psychopath, makes an attempt to seduce her very adult albeit naive adopted father, who has previously had a tendency to stray from the confines of his marriage, especially following the stillbirth of the couple’s last child. This in fact is the event, portrayed at the movie’s beginning in a horribly grotesque and bloody dream sequence, which leads to Esther’s adoption. Due to Kate’s tendencies to engage in alcoholic binges, John blames her for the miscarriage, just as he blames her for the accident that lead to the near-deafness and muteness of their daughter Alex, due to an accident on a frozen pond that occurred while Kate lay passed out drunk.
John and Kate is in fact a delightfully dysfunctional couple, and they play their roles to the hilt, as do the film’s child stars. Another treat for fans of the old FX television series The Shield will be the appearance of an old friend, CCH Pounder, in the role of the nun who runs the orphanage from where our hopeful couple meets and adopts Esther.
Finally, while it is true that this at first glance seems to be a typical standard evil child movie, this film has a twist that should be so unexpected, it would leave you stunned, breathless and, yes, even horrified. Unfortunately, it is easy enough to find out what the plot twist is merely by browsing the internet. It is so devious, so calculatingly cunning and diabolical, it is all I can do to keep from shouting it out in bold all caps, but I will restrain myself.
I advise you to similarly restrain yourself from reading any spoilers and just go see the damn film. The character development and the acting (especially from Isabella Fuhrman as Esther) are on their own reason enough to see this film, but if you positively have to have a clue as to what the surprise twist of the film is, I will give you one hint, and one hint only.
There is a very good reason why no one can find any records pertaining to Esther’s birth and origins.
That’s all I can say, though I will add one observation for the sake of those adoption advocates who seem determined to read something into this film that just isn't there-that Esther, at least on some deep, subconscious, symbolic level, is somehow representative of your average adopted child. If you do happen to stumble across a prospective adoptive couple who might be swayed against child adoption by the subject matter of this film, I would advise you to refer them to a good animal shelter.