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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

BLACK LIMOUSINE -- DVD review by porfle

David Arquette gives the best dramatic performance that I've ever seen from him in BLACK LIMOUSINE (2010), which is good since he's in almost every scene and the whole movie revolves around him.  What's also good is that after what seems like a somewhat boring and meandering start, this odd and at times confusingly surrealistic art film gradually begins to resonate on an emotional level.

Arquette gives his all to the role of Jack MacKenzie, a film composer who lost it all on the verge of success due to a car crash that killed his daughter Mary.  Now divorced and down on his luck, Jack takes a job as a limo driver and meets a prominent actor (Nicholas Bishop) he hopes will be his ticket back into the movie business. 

Meanwhile, one of his AA buddies turns out to be struggling actress-model Erica Long (Bijou Phillips), whose billboard he has long admired.  While reticent at first, she begins to respond to his tentative flirtations and they seem on the way to a romantic relationship.  But just when things start going his way, Jack's luck turns sour again and he finds his grip on reality slipping away with potentially disastrous results.

While deliberately slow and contemplative, with lots of art house style by director Carl Colpaert that will turn off some and captivate others, BLACK LIMOUSINE draws us into Jack's world so that we can ride the emotional rollercoaster with him and watch his life twist one way and then the other from his own fevered point of view. 

We can sympathize with his yearning to create music once again and reach out for human contact after his ex-wife Nash (Carla Ortiz) shuts him out, thinking their daughter's death may have been partly his fault.  We know he must be a pretty good guy since his surviving daughter Kate (Jacqueline Mackenzie) is crazy about him, although Nash's new husband Russell (Patrick Fabian) thinks he's a lowlife and hates his guts. 

The scenes of Jack and the rather difficult Erica warming up to each other avoid excess cuteness thanks to her abrasiveness--she's like the irritant that causes an oyster to make a pearl--and the fact that Jack's overheated imagination transforms their courtship into a surreal sci-fi odyssey (fans of Kubrick's 2001 will appreciate the deliriously unsubtle symbolism of their first sexual encounter). 

So dreamlike are some of Jack's experiences that we begin to doubt what's real and what isn't--as does he--especially when his promising meeting with an enterprising production assistant (Petra Sanader), which he's confident will lead to greater things, ends on a bizarre note that leaves him helpless with hysterical laughter.  At other times we get a more objective view of Jack's alienation as we watch his dealings with other people begin to fall apart.

The most overtly unreal sequence (not counting the moment when his crabby landlady, played by the divinely grotesque Lin Shaye, starts barking gibberish at him) is likely the film's high point, when a drunken Jack is hijacked in his own limousine by a death's head goth who drives him to his deceased daughter's school play rehearsal.  Her impassioned performance of "No, No, Nothing Has Changed" to an emotionally devastated Jack, backed by a children's choir, is powerful and haunting.  

There's an almost TAXI DRIVER-like inevitability to what follows as a downward spiral of events draws Jack ever deeper into madness.  This leads to a conclusion that's shattering at first, and then puzzlingly ambiguous--there are, in fact, two endings, as though this were one of those "choose your own adventure" stories. 

Since I assume one is what really happened and the other is a "what if", I haven't quite decided yet how BLACK LIMOUSINE really ends.  (For me, anyway.)  Some viewers will find this infuriating.  It does give you something to think about as the end credits roll, though.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound.  There are no subtitles or extras. 

The best thing about BLACK LIMOUSINE is finding out that with the right role, David Arquette can give a strong, powerful dramatic performance that's good enough to carry an entire film.  What some may consider the worst thing about it is its ambiguity, although others will find this both intriguing and challenging.  I'm still somewhere in between, but I definitely don't regret the experience.

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