Nutshell: Blake Lively deserves an incredible film worthy of her talents. You gets nearer to that goal, but still doesn’t make it. Weird, suspenseful and fascinating, yet this film drowns in it’s own sense of grandeur. Grade: C+
What is it: I’d no idea this film existed until I was asked to attend the screening. And with Blake Lively in it, I was intrigued. With The Shallows and Age of Adeline, Lively has been proving herself more than just a pretty face. And the trailer for You shows a suspenseful, creepy story, with Lively as Gina, a woman living in Thailand who was blinded by a car accident when she was a child. After a life-changing surgery that restores sight in one of her eyes, she begins to re-think who she is, as she contemplates the “new” world around her. Meanwhile, her hubby James (Jason Clarke, a bit too Jack Torrance from the get-go) starts to worry that Gail will think she’s gotten the short end of the stick with their marriage. Intriguing, no?
How did I like it: Marc Forester makes some really great films. Quantum of Solace, Monster’s Ball, World War Z (shut it, I enjoyed the hell out of Z) But he can also stare deeply into his navel at times. While You is an intriguing film, it’s wobbly sense of plot makes for a bumpy ride. I’d bet my next bag of Twizzlers that Forster figured all of the vagueness in the film would be mysterious and fascinating. Instead, it feels like a lack of cohesive story, or at least an inability to tell it. Jumps in time are choppy, and the audience is left to keep up or keep flailing. I don’t expect movies or their directors to spoon-feed me, but I do expect a film to be able to tell a story without me having a dissonant record-scratch moment every fifteen minutes.
So yeah, the plotting is a mess. But the story is intriguing, even with all of the gaps and hiccups. As Gail, Lively transitions beautifully from a woman who has been made dependent on her husband to a woman longing to see all that the world has to offer. Her Gail is open hearted and loving, but finds a strong backbone once she sees her world and makes sense of what “she imagined” versus what is. Sadly, Clarke is a clingy manipulator that never seems to change from what he was from the get-go. At the start, James is a man who likes to do whatever he wants (heads out with his friends after work to get completely shitfaced), and then have his perfect little wifey at home. Perfect, because she needs him. He makes sure of that, because if she ever makes even the slightest comment that he could take as a real personality (or god forbid a challenge), he doesn’t come when she calls, leaving her helpless and scared. Nice guy. Clarke’s face perpetually looks like he’s sucked a lemon and didn’t like the result. I blame Forester for this; there should have been a build-up, unless we were meant to not like the guy from the start? Ugh, who cares.
As Gail’s sister and brother-in-law, Ahna O’Reilly and Miquel Fernández are a refreshing change of pace from stuffy James and put-upon Gail. When the four meet up during a visit to Barcelona, there’s a clash of personalities and marriage styles. It’s one of the the best parts of the film, and shows what Forester can do when he focuses on something. But then James and Gail go home and it’s sloppy-plot business as usual. Perhaps if Forester had focused on directing and let the screewriting go, there would have been more cohesion. Pity, as the POV scenes with Gail where we see what she’s “seeing” – blind or sighted – are often wonderful. But this POV is overused, and the out of focus, fuzzy view becomes tedious.
There’s also a character that’s intergal to the story, but the time spent building that subplot feels shoehorned in just to get to a big(ish) ta-da toward the end. So? Tidbits of great stuff, and a wonderful performance by Lively. Bummer about the plotting though.
Why should you see it: If you want to see another performance by Lively that will have you wondering when she’ll get the chance to sink her teeth into something really good. Oh, and the shots around Thailand are wonderful.