Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Bram Stoker's Dracula
Man did I hate this movie. This is one that I've caught a few scenes of here and there over the years, and it always looked like something I wouldn't like, but with Horrorthon in gear, and having just watched the Lugosi Dracula, I figured maybe I just never gave it a chance. Crap, was that not the case.
Winona Ryder is the female the lead, putting on a British accent, which is laughable and pathetic, but it gets worse. Keanu Reeves is the male lead, also putting on a British accent. All of a sudden, Ryder isn't looking too bad. Man. Their first scene together is a textbook case of bad acting and non-existent chemistry.
And then midway through, Anthony Hopkins shows up as Van Helsing, using what I eventually realized was supposed to be a German accent. Keanu and Winona's suckitude is to be expected, so there's some level of forgiveness there. But Hopkins is Mr. Wilcox. Hopkins is Mr. Stevens. Hopkins is Hannibal, for chrissakes. Alas, this role reminded me that Hopkins is also the stroke victim embarrassment in Legends of the Fall. I guess they say that good acting is being fearless and just “going for it" even at the risk of looking really foolish. Well Hopkins dives full on into scene chewing fool role here. He's also wearing a horrible blond wing, I guess to make him look younger so that when he makes out with Ryder late in the movie, we're not supposed to be thinking, “Ewwww.” But we do anyway.
I also wasn't crazy about the overwrought pre-Raphaelite set and costumes. I'll admit, I get annoyed when I feel like a movie becomes more about how it “looks” than what it “is.” And there's never been a better example than this superficially pretty mess. Similarly, Coppola employs what I'd call MTV-style camerawork and editing, another huge pet peeve of mine. There's all these quick cuts, imagistic interludes, cheesy fades, and arbitrarily disorienting shot angles with, say, floating heads in the background, maybe in soft focus. Combine all this and whole movie felt like mere color and noise.
Another distraction is what I perceived as attempts at lots of lame symbolism. I hate shit like: “Ohhh...her dress is red now!” There's a lot of that in this movie. I suppose I dislike symbolism because it's basically shorthand, and I want the artist to invest some time and sweat in getting me to where she wants me to go. Plus, plain old metaphor is almost always more interesting.
And finally, I just wasn't crazy about the script. This almost gets lost in the confusion onscreen, but a few deadpan Keanu deliveries is enough to highlight the cliched stupidity. Mostly, it's romantic melodrama, a lot of which is in voice-over mode, whether as diary entries or love letters. But there's also just horribly written attempts at character development and exposition. Hopkins delivering the stuff on “vam-PYERS!” is hysterically bad. It brought to mind the kid near the end of the Buffy run doing the same, but that was good funny. Now it occurs to me that he was specifically mocking Hopkins!
So why even the one star? Two main reasons. Gary Oldman does do some fun stuff with the Dracula character. He's the only one in the whole movie with anything to work with, unfortunately, but also his hamming is more pointed and effective than the others'. And finally, there's definitely something sexy here, and it's not just all the boobs and see-through lacy clothing. Well...