Sarah Polley Tribute "Splice" by Vincenzo Natali


Canadian director Vincenzo Natali gave us the 1997 low budget horror/thriller "Cube" a Rockport Review favorite.  Years later and a few straight to video projects, his 2009 film "Splice" actually made it to theatres even it was for a short time. "Splice" is a sci-fi thriller in the vein of David Cronenberg's early work.

Clive and Elsa, played by Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody, are two hipster geneticists working on splicing the genes of several animal species together to make medicinal proteins for livestock with one day hoping to cure human diseases.  Their two star creations are Fred and Ginger, big red slug looking creatures who turn out to be more than they bargained for.  After a complete disaster at a medical conference showing off their creations, they are reprimanded by their big evil company and forced back to the drawing board.  But Elsa now wants to push the boundaries and splice in some human genes into their concoctions.  Although illegal and unethical they do it just to see what happens with the agreement that they will terminate the experiment before it gets out of hand.  The sample grows at an exponential rate and Clive wants to stop it but Elsa, the motherly figure, hijacks the project and a cute little creature bursts out of the lab tank it was being incubated in.

The baby creature scurries around the lab until Elsa captures it.  It looks like a kangaroo with tiny arms, a tail, and a big head.  Once caught Elsa cares for it while Clive only wants it gone.  Its quite the ethical dilemma and shows the cracks in their relationship.  She wants kids he doesn't.  Elsa names the creature Dren, which is Nerd spelled backward.  Nerd is the name of some biotech company that is written on Clive's shirt.  Dren still grows at an amazingly fast rate and starts to take on more and more human characteristics.  Elsa puts a dress on her and treats her like her own secret little daughter.  It starts to get harder and harder to hide Dren from the other at the lab so they move her out to Elsa old abandoned family farm.  Dren is unable to speak but can understand when talked too, like a really smart dog.

Things really start to get interesting an a little creepy when Dren grows up into a sort of teenager.  Since Clive seems to be kind of a douchey guy, to begin with he can't help but wonder what it would be like to hit that after initially wanting it dead.  Elsa is pretty insecure about herself and starts to feel some serious jealousy over Clive and Dren's relationship.  Fearing the worst Elsa straps Dren's naked body down to a table and cuts off the stinger at the end of her tail.  Feeling hurt and betrayed Dren is driven even closer to Clive.  Inevitably Clive and Dren do get down to business and Elsa, of course, walks in on them.  Ouch!  Needless to say, she is a little freaked out.  The third act goes a little off course, but it is still worth a watch. 

Sarah Polley is the best part of this movie along with Delphine Chaneac who plays the grown-up Dren.  Sarah's Elsa looks to have dealt with a lot in her past and has issues connecting with other people.  She is pretty cold and closed off until she creates Dren who is more a part of her than Clive realizes.  Natali filmed the movie with strong blues and greys giving it a very cold and clinical feel.  The effects used are also well done with a unique and interesting opening title/credit sequence.  Make a double feature of it and see "Cube" and "Splice".

Sarah Polley Tribute 1999's "GO" by Doug Liman


Three years after directing the cult hit "Swingers"  Doug Liman struck gold again with the hip young ensemble comedy "Go".  Uniquely structured over the course of one crazy night in the lives of a bunch of young people in the city of angels.  

The story follows four main characters Ronna (Sarah Polley), a supermarket cashier, who needs $300 to avoid being evicted from her apartment.  Simon (Desmond Askew), Ronna's British co-worker who's is going to Las Vegas for the weekend with a few friends.  Then there are Adam and Zack (Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr) a couple of gay soap opera actors who are cutting a deal with the police to help then arrest Simon who is friends with Tod (Timothy Olyphant) a local drug dealer.

The movie has a very 90s feel to it when watched today.  Pagers were still big with teenagers.  Raves were still cool and mysterious.  This movie is like a time capsule of a time that really doesn't seem too long ago.  Remember the good ole days of 1999, at the height of Y2K paranoia, and people still doing the Macarena what a time to be alive.  (Yes, I'm being sarcastic if it isn't obvious).   Okay so needing money in a hurry Ronna takes Simon's shift so he can go to Vegas.  When Adam and Zack look to score some ecstasy from her in a sting operation she agrees.  She goes to Tod to buy the stuff hoping to turn a profit when she resells it, not knowing that Adam and Zack are narcs.  Although Tod needs some assurance that Ronna will pay him back, so she leaves her friend Claire (Katie Holmes) as collateral. Needless to say, the deal goes bad and Ronna is now totally screwed. 

Then the movie sort of starts over again but this time from Simon's point of view and his wild adventures in Vegas.  Simon and friends get into some pretty crazy shit and end up on the run from some low-level strip club mobsters when Simon shots one of them in the arm.  This story will cross path with Tod and Claire near the end.

Lastly, we go to the point of view of Adam and Zack and their relationship with officer Burke (William Fichtner) who is overseeing their plea bargain to get an arrest that will lead him to Tod.  They will also run into Ronna again at a very inopportune time.  Everything in each story is connected in one way or another and makes it a joy to watch.  The characters are interesting, quirky, and funny, and the story is tightly packed without a second to spare.  It's a pretty fun experience even if it is a little dated.  So if you're feeling a little nostalgic for the 90s I suggest you "Go".

Sarah Polley Tribute "Guinevere" by Audrey Wells


My next bunch of reviews will focus on Canadian actor/director Sarah Polley, who has starred in several independent films such as "Guinevere", "Go", and "My Life Without Me", along with directing the critically acclaimed films "Away from Her" and "Take This Waltz".  Born in January of '79 in Toronto, Sarah found success in the TV show "Road to Avonlea" and several other Canadian productions.  She may be short in stature (5'2") but is quite the heavy hitter in the indie film scene.

The 1999 film "Guinevere" was written and directed by Audrey Wells and co-stars veteran Irish actor Stephen Rea as Connie Fitzpatrick a Bohemian San Francisco photographer.  Polley plays Harper Slone the youngest daughter in a wealthy, stuck-up family of lawyers.  Harper is often ignored and played off as the black sheep when she is really the most normal and grounded of the bunch.  While bored to death at her sister's wedding, she runs off with a bottle of champagne and manages to bump into the wedding photographer, Connie.   Connie is not one to win over the young ladies with his looks but is a very mysterious and intriguing character.  The appealing lure of the life of an artist does it every time. He quickly strikes up a sort of friendship with Harper when he agrees not to photograph her as part of the wedding party.  Unknown to Harper he does take a picture of her and she falls in love with it.  On the back, it says "To Guinevere"

Connie is the stereotypical self-destructive, alcoholic, artist.  He has this thing were he mentors and helps troubled young female artists find their way.  I won't lie it is kind of creepy and looks likes the oldest trick in the book for an older man to get with young girls.  Although there must be something to him because Harper ditches Harvard law school to live with Connie rent free with the condition that she must work on being some sort of artist.  She chooses photography as her medium.  All of the girls past and present are referred to as his Guinevere's and serve as his muse's for his own photography projects.  It not long before the ole Connie charm kicks in and Harper is sleeping with him.  Harper is introduced to his close circle of friends and even meets a former Guinevere, played by Gina Gershon.  For the first time in her life, Harper feels accepted for who she is and not the constant disappointment her family sees.  Connie gives her all of the attention she could ever want and Harper soaks it up like a sponge.

Early on when Harper finds out there have been other Guinevere's, she has a major freak out.  Thinking she is being taken advantage of, she moves out only to be back with him shortly after.  When Harper's mother finds out what she's been up to she confronts Connie.  She is one frosty bitch (played by Jean Smart), which a big side jealousy. "Guinevere" is not a great movie by any stretch, but it is watchable for Polley and Rea because without them this movie would need to be left in the darkroom.