8 1/2 Women
Reviewed by Ned Daigle
Rating: 8.5 Beans
irst off I want to say is that I'm a huge fan of director Peter Greenaway. I've always appreciated his artful excesses, love him or hate him, there's no one else who comes close to doing the original work he does. There are lots of people out there who detested his other films like "Drowning By Numbers", "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover", "Prospero's Books" and others, but I find them immensely difficult and rewarding, a feast for the eyes and the brain. But then there's his newest film "8 1/2 Women" which is basically the insipid, pretentious twaddle his critics only THOUGHT his other films were.
What can I say? "8 1/2 Women" is an aggravating, empty experience. Greenaway has always been known for his visuals and weirdness, but in his other films his excessive qualities had a point and usually were thematic in how they related to the story. Here, since there really is no story to speak of, the weirdness is simply that. Weird. Only serving to distance the audience from an already uninvolving story.
What is the story you ask? A British father and son team living in Switzerland, who, after the death of the wife/mother, deal with their grief by turning their mansion into a private brothel. The are inspired by watching Federico Fellini's "8 1/2" and decide to gather women for their own private pleasures. Good enough I suppose.
The story begins after the mother's death. It is alluded to that the father and son have sex with each other as sort of a bizarre family grief counseling session. The first addition to their brood is a Japanese woman who goes with them to pay off her gambling debt. Next is a depressed wanna-be geisha girl who is wants to be as feminine as a female impersonator (don't ask.) And so on.
There is an ex-nun, played by Toni Collette hot off her Oscar nomination in "The Sixth Sense" who should be speaking with her agent; a Swiss woman who is only happy when she's pregnant, a horse-thief in a back brace (played by Amanda Plummer), a female Japanese lawyer (Vivan Wu), a British ball-busting party girl, etc. etc. etc. There is also a woman without any legs (she's the half-woman).
Anyway there are long stretches of dialogue that doesn't amount to anything, peppered with really bizarre pointless imagery. If you long to see Amanda Plummer sitting on a bench naked while she bathes a giant pig, be my guest. Also, Toni Collette at one point sheds all her clothes and stands naked wearing only a wimple and showing off her shaved crotch.
Of course, none of there women provide the answer for these grieving men, and in most of Greenaway's films there is a death at the end, somehow, but not quite, providing closure to a story without purpose.
"8 1/2 Women" is equal parts dull and downright embarrassing. I give it 8 1/2 beans. Only seems fitting.
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