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The Fall

(2008) ** R
116 min. Roadside Attractions. Director: Tarsem Singh. Cast: Lee Pace, Catinca Untaru, Justine Waddell, Daniel Caltagirone, Leo Bill.


One thing I'll say for the unabashedly stylized The Fall. With its gorgeous location work, costumes, and special effects, it looks like one of the most expensive movies ever made, though I'm quite sure it isn't. Credit director Tarsem Singh—a.k.a. Tarsem—whose only previous feature was The Cell eight years ago, but who remains in demand for commercials and music videos. It's easy to see why: The Fall is a bit like like watching 232 baroquely visual Super Bowl ads back to back.

Unfortunately, Tarsem's narrative prowess isn't nearly as developed as his visual sense, and even that can be pretty darn annoying after a while. The plot concerns how an injured movie stuntman (Lee Pace of Pushing Daisies) in 1915 insinuates himself with a little girl in a hospital by telling her an outlandish story. Romantically jilted by his lover, the patient is suicidally depressed, and wants the little girl's help in fetching a quantity of pills to do the job.  Naturally, his fantastic bedtime tale reflects his real-life drama and ever-darker mood, countered by the girl's interjections of natural innocence and optimism.

Conceptually, the idea is strong and ruthlessly efficient as a cup of black coffee. But in execution, neither the reality nor the fantasy proves terribly involving. It all begs the question "How can a movie this splashy be so goldurn boring?". Tarsem hasn't the Gilliamesque ability to make The Fall amount to anything more than a monument to preposterous thinking. I don't know about you, but I can only look at a monument so long before mentally checking out.

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