Monday, February 23, 2015

cinema obscura: tom kalin's "savage grace"

It's official.

The acting royalty of the moment is the duo of Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne, the current guardians of the Best Actress and Best Actor trophies - until two other privileged thespians are announced at the next Oscarcast. In 2016. Of course, they retain their gleaming gold statuettes in perpetuity. They don't have to relinquish them at the next Awards Season.

But Moore and Redmayne, both hugely talented and highly deserving of their Oscars, have a fascinating history - one that predates their award-winning acting in "Still Alice" and "The Theory of Everything," respectively.

They created something of a scandal back in 2007 when they appeared as a rather unorthodox mother and son in Tom Kalin's deliciously wicked "do-you believe-the rich-actually-behave-this-way?" opus, "Savage Grace." Never heard of it?

That's because, inexplicably, despite its pedigree, it came and went under the radar.  It would make sense if some enterprising young executive at IFC Films, which released "Savage Grace," suggested an art-house re-release. This effort by two Oscar winners deserves to be seen.

The film covers the rather unhealthy exploits of the fabulously wealthy Baekeland family - father Brooks (Stephen Dillane), who was the heir to the Baekeland plastics fortune (Brooks's grandfather invented Bakelite);  his ambitious, society-obsesssed wife Barbara (Moore), and their son Tony (Redmayne) - and traverses the years immediately following World War II up until the 1960s, flitting from New York to Paris to London.

The relationship between Brooks and Barbara is toxic, to say the least, and with that dynamic serving as something of a model, it's no surprise that the individual and shared behavior of mother and son, Barbara and Tony, is wildly dysfunctional. We're talking decadence here, as father, mother and son sleep around and with each other's paramours and with each other.  Yes, there's incest and, for good measure, murder.

Don't be put off by the expected sordidness because, with people this wealthy, entitled and privileged, "Savage Grace" is handsomely appointed and glamorous to the hilt. It's fun to slum with the filthy rich.
Photo Credits: IFC Films


Barry said...

When I first saw "Savage Grace," I was oddly fascinated by it - enough to track down Kalin's previous movie, "Swoon." While it’s not perfect I think "Savage Grace" is far more successful than "Swoon." You can actually see Kalin improving as a filmmaker. Whatever happened to him?

joe baltake said...

Barry- Kalin hasn't made a film since "Savage Grace" - his second and last film. "Swoon" was made in 1992- 15 years earlier. In-between, he made several short films. I've no idea what became of him. Too bad. I thought he had an original vision.

Marvin said...

I was wondering when SOMEONE was going to mention SAVAGE GRACE. I am ASTOUNDED (and then some) that no one mentioned that Julianne/Eddie were in that film together. I loved it, by the way.