Sunday, 7 June 2015

SHORT REVIEW: Return To Sender (2015)

This review appeared on The Upcoming website here.

In 1962, Elvis Presley released a jolly little song called ‘Return to Sender.’ Faced now with a Rosamund Pike film with the same name, one could be forgiven for thinking that the film might itself be a jolly, little rom-com. It even has a best friend character, played by Camryn Manheim, who has clearly been told to pretend she is Melissa McCarthy. But, unfortunately, this is post-Gone Girl Rosamund Pike, hamming it up terribly as a cold and cartoonish psychopath.

Pike plays a nurse who needs a man. Encouraged to go on a blind date by her worried colleagues, she accepts but on the day, she invites the wrong man (Shiloh Fernandez) into her house. She is viciously attacked and the rest of the film charts her increasingly unorthodox methods of living with the trauma.

With the best will in the world, Return to Sender is an old-fashioned ‘straight to DVD’ film – one of the really bad ones where it is clear that no one was trying very hard. The script bumps languidly from false note to false note, with dialogue that is either tin-eared, stupid or clumsy, if not all three at once. Even the title is terrible, inevitably reminding us of the Presley number, but also being entirely irrelevant to the subject of the film. The script is not helped by Fouad Mikati’s disinterested direction, all master shots and shot reverse shots, apart from the much too choreographed rape scene.

The performances are not any good either, though it is difficult to imagine anyone making this script work. Pike is hammy and unconvincing; Fernandez alternates between sad innocence and psycho leers, unsure of what he is supposed to be doing; the supporting characters are invisible, Nick Nolte doesn’t realize he is in a film and the extras drift awkwardly out of shot after saying their awkward lines. Two extras in particular are worth looking out for – if one is watching for some degree of entertainment – one an impatient customer in a queue at the drycleaners and the other delivering flowers at the hospital.

It is difficult to think of a recent film this flippant about rape – it had been assumed that filmmakers had grown up a little since the Eighties. The film is bland enough that most audiences won’t be offended, although they might be angry at the blatant inattention and disinterest from all concerned. Very poor.

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