This period mystery stars Edward Norton as a magician in pursuit of a beautiful princess played by Jessica Biel whom he first fell in love with as a young boy. Rufus Sewell plays the dastardly politician that stands in their way and Paul Giamatti steals the show as an underling who’s willing to betray Sewell’s vicious villain in order to uphold the truth. Though it’s hyped by its ad campaigning as a twisty, shocking thriller, it’s more gifted at drama and romance than thrills. The real pleasure is director Neil Burger’s lovely visual style. He creates a sort of hazy, eerie landscape that makes this film all the more romantic and quietly unsettling.
There’s also another creepy, odd indie mystery coming to DVD this week. It’s called The Night Listener and it stars Robin Williams as an author pursuing the truth about a little boy who claims to have written a book about his harrowing and abusive childhood but may only be a figment of a sociopath’s imagination. Like The Illusionist, it was wrongly marketed as an action packed thriller, but really this is a sordid Sundance entry about psychosis, pedophilia, and paranoia. It’s a dark hearted, vicious mystery with a painful dramatic center that stings until the very end.
Those more inclined toward straight drama should check out Quinceañera, the little indie that took last year’s Sundance Film Festival by storm. It’s a truthful, simple film about a young 15 year old girl who becomes suddenly pregnant and gets disowned by her family. She forms a little community of rejects with her gay cousin and elderly grandpa. It’s something sweet but somber, and very good indeed. If you’re fond of talky indie pictures, then you might also enjoy Conversations with Other Women starring Tim Burton muse Helena Bonham Carter and Thank You for Smoking’s Aaron Eckhart as “Man” and “Woman” and shot in an experimental split screen format that keeps both sides of their lengthy night long conversation on screen at all times. It’s something in vein of Before Sunset (although not as good), which studies people and general ideas as represented by two individuals who have the wonderful gift to speak eloquently.