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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Self Torture Porn

It took a few days, but there is finally a movie to truly loathe at Sundance.
Downloading Nancy is one of those films that goes beyond in its pretentious efforts to top some of the worst Sundance bad habits. The “Watch The Well-Known Actress Suffer And Fuck” film (most recently embodied by Sherrybaby) combined with the “If Chris Doyle Shot It, It Must Be Art” film, with a mighty tip of the hat to Hostel 2, this is the very worst kind of festival shit. It desperately wants to tell you that it’s important and meaningful and supportive of people who truly suffer in the real world… but what it really wants to do is to force you to watch Maria Bello get abused and abused and abused – all by choice – while you wait for the inevitable violent murder of the woman at the end of the film. The closest thing to restraint that the film, which chooses to pretend to be restrained in style, shows is that they don’t have her cut up into small pieces by the murderer and dumped in the Chesapeake Bay. Thanks for that!
At first, I just thought it was going to be the Actress Over The Top Where’s My Indie Spirit Award film. But that is actually insulting to those films, which generally fail in their goals, but at least make a game effort.
Mostly, I feel bad for the very strong cast. Bello really can bring it… and she brings it here to a degree that made me feel – as I did with Hostel 2 – that I was watching a real form of rape. There are other films that are as graphic and more graphic that don’t make me feel that way. But a movie that takes so much pleasure in the pain of its lead character can’t get away with claiming artistic distance with me. There is a point at which it is not about what the character feels and it is simply like a nasty trick, trying to make the audience as anguished as what they are watching. It is hateful filmmaking and every director who does it seems to be beloved by his female cast. Why? Because he makes/allows them to put it all out there. But that isn’t art. That is abuse. If this filmmaker was remotely serious about exploring the depths of self-abuse that people who have been raped in their childhoods, then the movie would have seriously explored those issues. Instead we get realistic, well acted, surface all around.
Jason Patric and Rufus Sewell are also very good in their roles and the passive abuser (though can anyone really buy a guy who has been married to a woman for 17 years who doesn’t notice that she is a cutter who cuts every part of her body?) and the found abuser who Bello’s character wants to kill her. Amy Brenneman is fine but underused in a small part as the therapist who gets it, but can’t seem to get anywhere.
There is such a world of difference between a film like this and a very difficult film like Irreversible , which aspires to something and really demands thought by the audience. This is like being force fed rancid veggies.
The festival should be embarrassed to give this one a place.

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7 Responses to “Self Torture Porn”

  1. Nicol D says:

    A quick IMDB shows the director is associated with Jonas Akerlund who made the festival film Spin a few years back. A film I loathed with ever fibre of my being. I do not need to see Mena Suvari’s bowel movements, thank you.
    I like Irreversible (if that is the right word) and find Noe an interesting director. But to do what he does is rare. I appreciate your honesty in this review. If it is as bad as you describe, I always wonder how these music video directors get such top tier actors to do this stuff.
    Sadly, there does seem to be such a thing as the ‘indie genre’ and the synopsis of this seems to fit right in.
    One part shock
    One part good indie actors
    One part suffering for my art
    Shake, spin, repeat.

  2. jeffmcm says:

    I never saw Hounddog so maybe it was awesome, but I notice that it played in two festivals a year ago and has no other theatrical or video release date planned, according to IMDB.
    “Downloading Nancy” was shot last January so I don’t see how this movie could have any tips of the hat, mighty or otherwise, to any movies released last Spring.

  3. Downloading Nancy sounds like some hi-tech cyber thriller! And, yeah, Spun was woeful.

  4. LYT says:

    Considering that I loved Spun and thought Hostel part II was a well-done horror movie, I guess I have to check this one out.

  5. TVGuy says:

    LYT… please tell me you were kidding about your Hostel II comment…
    please….
    I’d rather floss with barbed wire than see that “film” again…

  6. CaptainZahn says:

    I’ve never thought Irreversible was all that great. It felt like Noe thought editing the movie backwards and flashing a proverb on the screen at the end would lend it all the weight it needed.

  7. jeffmcm says:

    The visual style and use of music/sound design is pretty impressive, but in the end I think it’s a movie that thinks it’s smarter than it actually is, at least in terms of delivering some kind of philosophical statement.

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