The Ledge (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
28Sep/110

The Ledge (2011)

I've never quite been an altar boy but I understand the need for faith and the legitimate good some people are able to derive from its existence.  However, if you look to most entertainment as a guideline for what constitutes religion, you'll have nothing but evil and sexual denial in some fashion.  Where are the good religious couples who have a healthy sex life, do some good and try to live their lives peaceably?  Moreover, why do movies like The Ledge have to be so damned satisfied with themselves in pointing out not everyone who is religious is someone to admire?

The Ledge is clearly a personal project for Matthew Chapman, who acts as the director, screenwriter and one of the credited producers for the film.  It means, outside of heavy studio interference, this is his movie to completely botch.  Unfortunately for Mr. Chapman, "religious people are evil" isn't the sort of observation which is going to set the cinematic world on fire and his directing style barely has the style of a Kevin Smith film.

This is terribly dull film-making, filled with metaphors aplenty that require little hand-holding yet are spelled out for the audience in bold characters and a camera which redefines "static".  The opening sequence in the film, where Detective Lucetti (Terrence Howard) is trying to talk Gavin (Charlie Hunnam) off a ledge (in the first all too direct reference to the title) sets the wrong stylistic tone.  Gavin speaks with a self-satisfied air about the love story he recounts to Det. Lucetti, in full, while the camera remains firmly in place cutting between each character from the exact same angle in a shot/reverse-shot for seven agonizing minutes.

The stabs at comedy, such as with Gavin's friend and her "paperweight", also take a too-broad approach. Smart Atheists love sex and no one else, apparently.

As if the dialogue celebrating Gavin's arrogance wasn't bad enough, the film returns to this exact set-up and the angles throughout its entire run-time.  This is sadly indicative of the level of craft director Chapman is capable of, choosing to light the evil Joe (Patrick Wilson) in such a way that accentuates his brow and, like all other directors, chooses to photograph Shana (Liv Tyler) mostly on her back.

Even if the style doesn't scream of a gifted talent the best screenplays overcome a number of visual limitations (as Kevin Smith proved with Chasing Amy and Clerks).  But the central battle involves the control of Shana's libido as she fights her desire for Gavin and her duty toward Joe.  This is a struggle rooted in routine Bible verse quoting and much empty posturing as Gavin proves himself equally as manipulative as Joe.

There's no one to root for in this film.  Both Joe and Gavin are painted as completely different one-note caricatures of religious fundamentalism and scientific righteousness.  Since neither have anything interesting to point out or add to the discussion it all falls upon their relationship to Shana for any real dramatic tension to build.  But she spends the entirety of the film reacting to those two, lacking any personality outside of her role of wife and sex object.  This is not the best sign of a screenwriter who knows how to write female characters.

A deeper point could be made that both religious and scientific fundamentalism are privy to their own pitfalls (as Gavin's fate certainly leans toward) but the film is so reliant on their pathetic game of wills it forgets to generate any sort of tension outside the love triangle.  Don't bother looking to Det. Lucetti's storyline, rife with its own religious undercurrent and thematic connection to Gavin, to provide the film with any sort of genuine subtext.  His own issues of infidelity and faith could have been copied and pasted onto the main plot and, without blinking, had roughly the same movie with the same broad attack against religion.

Patrick Wilson can be terrifying, but at this point I would love to see him in a comedy just to change things up a tad.

I can say nothing of the cast except they are dependable in their roles and I wish them films which will better utilize their talents in the future.  I'm particularly fond of Liv Tyler and in films like Heavy and One Night At McCool's she showcases a range outside of these films' unfortunate tendency to focus only on her body (though McCool's is guilty of this to some extent, it at least gives her some other lifting to do).

However, I do have a note regarding Patrick Wilson.  The man has been a creepy presence in films since I first took notice of him in Hard Candy, but I've yet to see a film which maneuvers him outside the black comedy/thriller mold (even Insidious, a movie I very much enjoyed, used him in this vein).  I hope to see something expand his range or gives his naturally creepy on-screen persona a bit of heft, as his blank stare juxtaposed with evil rationalization is getting old (though not entirely his fault).

The Ledge is the kind of propaganda liberals do not need.  The only self-satisfaction should come from the knowledge there are no easy answers.   Yelling at the religious without having anything to say is counterproductive.  Talking down to them like they're children in this fashion is just outright insulting.

The Ledge (2011)
Screenplay written and directed by Matthew Chapman.
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Patrick Wilson and Liv Tyler.

Posted by Andrew

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