2013 - 102 minutes
Written and Directed by: Brian De Palma
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Rachel McAdams, Paul Anderson, Karoline Herfurth, Rainer Bock
For a film titled “Passion,” its first half is fairly toothless, with an inane sendup of an office rivalry that turns serious. The final act picks things up substantially, both narratively and stylistically, but it’s only writer/director Brian De Palma doing his best De Palma approximation.
I was not engrossed enough in the film to accept the tracking shots or Dutch angles as furthering the narrative, there was always awareness that this is De Palma doing De Palma nearly to the point of self-parody. Though the prolonged split-screen episodes midway through the film made me smile. De Palma trots out most of his old reliables – there’s even a direct nod or two to his grossly underrated 1974 film “Phantom of the Paradise” that made me wish I was watching it instead.
An English-language remake of the 2010 French film “Love Crime,” De Palma’s “Passion” stars Rachel McAdams as Christine, the boss at a Berlin-based advertising agency and Noomi Rapace as Isabelle, one of her underlings. The name of their firm is Koch Image – though I don’t recall anyone actually saying the name, it could be quite suggestive depending on how you pronounce it.
The colleagues start off as besties, drinking vodka while attempting to come up with an original cell phone ad. Isabelle isn’t laughing after Christine takes credit for her creative idea (which is neither very creative nor interesting and is as silly as the film’s first two acts).
A string of passive-aggression from both parties follows. Isabelle leaks her ad online (to 10 million hits!) to protect her work; Christine embarrasses Isabelle with security footage at a company meeting, and so on. Isabelle is also carrying on an affair with Christine’s boyfriend and co-worker Dirk (Paul Anderson), who seems to prefer the more traditional lovemaking with Isabelle, rather than the theatrics involved with Christine. Neither woman seems to really care about Dirk though, nor do they have reason to since he’s a hard-drinking oaf.
Despite their back and forth, Christine and Isabelle have a few awkward scenes of makeouts and manipulative feelings-sharing that aren’t provocative or evocative in the slightest. Thrown into the lesbianic mix is Isabelle’s assistant Dani (Karoline Herfurth), who has some latent feelings for her boss as well.
The competitive interplay leads to a horrible act that sets up the style and labyrinthine twists of the final half hour or so. Cops and lawyers piece together evidence while being played, just as De Palma is attempting to the play the audience.
There are several dream sequences (or were there?!) to keep you off balance (or, more likely, just frustrated) and truths are revealed. It’s fairly easy to see what’s coming and it’s almost laughable how the film treats the material with a staunch seriousness. None of these characters deserve our care.
Despite the attempted sleight of hand that doesn’t work, the film pauses to tell us exactly what has happened in a none-too-shocking exposé attempting to let us know how clever it was. It’s a much worse double back than the very effective one in “Side Effects” from earlier this year. That film had some bite after its reveal, while “Passion” ends on a more tepid note.
This film serves as a quick means to get a new De Palma fix, but I’m still waiting for a true return to form that isn’t a limp compilation.
© 2013 by Blake Crane