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She canít make sense of it: Thurman in The Life Before Her Eyes.

Days of Future Past

By Shawn Stone

The Life Before Her Eyes

Directed by Vadim Perelman

 

Hallucinatory and emotionally wrenching, director Vadim Perelmanís The Life Before Her Eyes is a powerful portrait of womanís breakdown on the anniversary of a high-school massacre that shattered her life.

At least I think thatís what itís about.

Shifting back and forth in time, we see teenage Diana McFee (Evan Rachel Wood) on the day of the school shooting, and Diana (Uma Thurman) today. Young Diana is cocky and devil-may-care; she has a college-prof boyfriend (Sherman Alpert) with a telltale douchebagís goatee. Sheís always chiding her best friend Maureen (Eva Amurri) for her straight-laced, Roman Catholic ways. (Note: Religion becomes more and more important as the story goes on.) Adult Diana is a wreck, with a cute-but-crabby child (Gabrielle Brennan) and a non-douchebag college-prof hubby (Brett Cullen).

Based on a novel by Laura Kasischke, the film is incredibly complex in structure; but director Perelman is in complete control, and the action never confuses. (Confounds, yes; confuses, no.) The film has a very distinct, overripe look: Every frame oozes color. The fact that this doesnít come across as tasteless is an achievement in itself. The performances by Wood and Thurman complement each other in well-thought-out ways, and both impress; the handling of the school shooting is horrifying but not sensational.

If everything about The Life Before Her Eyes is so effective and affecting, you may be wondering, why is there such a hedged tone to this review?

Because in the last third of the film, things get weird. OK, weirder. I donít want to give too much away, but the movie turns into a kind of Twilight Zone episodeówith a Roman Catholic point of view. The final revelation is as horrible as one would expect, and yet still a complete surprise. I canít fault it from a dramatic standpoint, because the filmmakers ultimately do play fair with the audience. I also canít say I like the ending much, either.

Why?

Because thinking back about the last 20 minutes of the film, I found myself pretty pissed off about the rationale ascribed to Dianaís fateful decision during the massacre. As much as I love movies as audacious as this, I prefer them without a smug slab of moralism.


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