MOVIE: Red Knot (2014)

redknotYou know that feeling of dissatisfaction that comes from seeing a film that could have been brilliant but wasn’t quite smart enough to pull it off?  Or, worse: when you can tell it’s not an issue of smartness at all, but one of vision? That’s the way this film made me feel. Blech, blargh, dang.

Described as “an Antarctic love story,” Red Knot is about a young couple, newlyweds Peter (Vincent Katheiser, Mad Men) and Chloe (Olivia Thirlby, Juno), who decide, because they are young and stupid, that they should spend their honeymoon on a research vessel loaded with other people and headed for the South Pole.

Well, really, Peter decides it — his academic hero, an expert on whales, will be on board, and he desperately wants to tag along — and Chloe agrees.  They tell each other, hey, what does any couple need on a honeymoon, anyway? Just a bed, right? That bed can be any-ol’-where. Even on a research vessel loaded with other people and headed for the South Pole!

See what I mean about “young and stupid”?  Oh, brother. Proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance, as my dad would say. (Them’s the “7 Ps,” for those of you who didn’t grow up military brats.)

Predictably (to anyone but Chloe, anyway), Peter very quickly ditches his bride for lengthy, nerdorific conversations with his colleagues.  Instead of spending long nights next to her in bed, he spends long nights next to them in the cafeteria.  It doesn’t take long for Chloe to seek out attention elsewhere, and as Peter’s obliviousness increases, so does her anger, eventually leading her to the ship’s captain (Billy Campbell), who grants her request for a separate room — and then joins her in it.

This is a movie about what happens to a relationship when the people involved in it are either too afraid or too proud (or too dumb) to say all the things that need to be said. The problem is, it doesn’t seem to know that’s what it’s about.  It seemed far more interested in the content of the couples’ arguments, when the real power was in the content of their silences.  Have you ever ruined a relationship by not saying the things that needed to be said because you were afraid of what would happen if you did? Do you remember how terrible that was?  Did it make you hope you’d never do that again? Did you do it again anyway?  Wouldn’t that have been a great movie? That would’ve been a love story. Instead, this is essentially just the same old break-up/get-back-together kind of thing, and while their not talking, followed by their talking again, was key to the action, it wasn’t explored in a key way all its own. It was a plot point, not a theme, when it really should’ve been a theme. The theme.

That said, despite the fact writer, director, producer, and chief navel-gazer Scott Cohen didn’t seem to know what he had, this film does have one major thing going for it, and that’s the scenery.  If you can stand being walloped over the head by 9,000 graphical metaphors of Antarctic slides and collapsings (because it’s about a marriage falling apart, see? SEE?!), you will be rewarded with 86 minutes of pretty gorgeous camera work. The landscape is stunning, and the cinematography, especially the shifting between focus and out-of-focus in the visuals, was creative and effective.

Also: penguins!

Aside from that, though, what Red Knot mostly made me think of was a line from the Faulkner novel Mosquitoes, when a character, sick to death of frivolous chitchat, says, “Talk, talk, talk: the utter and heartbreaking stupidity of words.” That’s how I feel every time I see a film like this one.  What a waste of a good conversation.

[Official web site]

Genre:  Drama
Cast: Olivia Thirlby, Vincent Katheiser, Billy Campbell

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One Response to “MOVIE: Red Knot (2014)”

  1. RogerBW Says:

    The film that’s almost great is far more frustrating than the film that’s incompetently-made rubbish.

    I have a lot of sympathy with Tom Lehrer: “And the characters in these books and plays and so on, and in real life, I might add, spend hours bemoaning the fact that they can’t communicate. I feel that if a person can’t communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up.”

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