Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Savage Grace

Review by Matthew Frendo

Since I'm writing reviews pretty regularly here, I have made the decision to see one movie a week at Sacramento's illustrious Tower Theatre (one of two sources of independent film in Sacto), whether I wanted to see it or not.  The reasoning of this was threefold: 1) the first showing at Tower is only $5, which lets me afford even a bad movie, 2) it could possibly open my eyes (and maybe yours) to some good stuff I've heard nothing about, and 3) as a reviewer, I feel it's almost a duty to see a variety of film, even if it's not of a particular genre I usually enjoy.  It was for this reason that I decided to see Savage Grace.  I really kind of expected to be bored out of my mind; there were a few vague hints of something "disturbing" implied by IMDb, which usually turns out to be nothing.

First off, the so-called "disturbing" images and theme turned into a very real disturbance.  There is some messed-up stuff here, which is made all the more so when you realize that it's based on a true story (although the truthfulness of the content has been questioned, it has not been fully disproven either).  The story revolves around Barbara Daly Baekeland (played cunningly by Julianne Moore), a would-be starlet who married Brooks Baekaland (Stephen Dillane), and became heiress to a fortune. 

The film spans the time from the 1950's to the early 1970's.  From the beginning, Barbara is overly decadent and thoughtless towards her beau.  She keeps the lifestyle going after they have a son, and talks openly to her son about such dealings.  Their son, Tony (played as an adult very astutely by  The Good Shepherd’s Eddie Redmayne), comes out as homosexual at a very young age.  When trying to act “straight” later in life, Tony brings a girl around, who Brooks ends up divorcing Barbara for.  This brings Barbara even closer to Tony, which is where the disturbing themes enter the picture, and tragedy strikes (as it usually does) at the ending.

The actors all did very well in their roles, and the direction was also masterfully executed.  Like stated before, it is disturbing material, but more of a far worse “Flowers in the Attic” kind of disturbing, as opposed to, let's say, the type of disturbing involving gratuitous gore.  There is also no hero to relate to, a fact which turned off many critics and viewers.  It is, however, a well-told tale of some really psychologically damaged individuals. 

Given the inherent wealth of all involved, it may very well hold the same moral as the Marquis De Sade's book “120 Days in Sodom” (which was made into a very, VERY disturbing movie in 1975 called disturbing that I would strongly recommend that you NOT see unless you sincerely yearn to look into the depths of hell), mainly that power and riches continuously corrupt until decadence reaches a point of complete moral decay.  While it may be hard to watch, it will at least cause you to think.  At a time when movies such as The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor that come out and actually endeavor to turn your brain off, this may not be a bad thing.

3 ½ / 5 stars

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