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