When a hotel maid turns up naked and dead in the room of popular 50s double-act Lanny Morris (Bacon) and Vince Collins (Firth), it signals the end of their partnership. Fifteen years later, a young journalist (Lohman) meets them to uncover the truth.
And they say Stanley Kubrick’s work is cold. Everything about Atom Egoyan’s latest exists on a cerebral plane. Its pacing as a thriller is slow and deliberate, while its plot twists are delivered without flash or fanfare. Perhaps it is this directorial approach that makes the film’s most graphic moment of passion — a sexual thrust too many earned it an NC17 rating in the US — so shocking and unexpected.
Egoyan plays a delicate game with audience perceptions, encouraging us to piece together fragments of the ‘truth’ from flashbacks, conversations and the written memoirs of the main characters. We think we’re discovering ‘facts’ at the same pace as journalist Karen (Lohman), until we realise that she too plays a key role in the mystery. Everything and everyone has to be constantly reassessed.
The director is aided in his deception by flawless performances from Bacon and Firth. The tension in their characters’ chummy double act is unsettling; these men seem to be simultaneously friends and enemies to each other, and simultaneously seductive and repellent to the girl who’s digging into their past. Egoyan’s recreation of their ’50s showbiz world may be lovingly detailed, but his dissection of this not-so-innocent era shows neither pity nor nostalgic restraint.
A rare film in which the style <i>is</i> the substance. Beneath the characters public facades and the storys cool surface lurk powerful secrets whose final revelations repay our patience.