Length: 101 minutes
Director: Alison Murphy (Train on the Brain)
Writer: Alison Murphy
Starring: Ellen Page, Jim Sturgess, Eric Thal, Natasha Wightman, Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, August Diehl, Diana Greenwood, Beatrice Brown
After my girlfriend and I watched “Juno”, she started teasing me about having a crush on Ellen Page. I realized half way through “Mouth to Mouth” that this was, in fact, true. Why else, I reasoned, would I still be sitting through such an terrible and repulsive film? Filmed before “Hard Candy”, but released after all the attention Page started to get for her performance in "Candy", “Mouth to Mouth” came along like one of those Jim Carrey discount bin DVDs that flooded all the Wal-marts after he hit big (“Rubberface” anyone?). Despite all the acclaim I have read about Page’s performance here, it really isn’t anything to write home about. Had “Hard Candy” not been released and her career was to be judged on this film alone, we might have seen someone like Kristen Stewart as Juno MacGuff. I can’t recall a more poorly directed and edited movie in recent memory. Not to mention full of completely unlikable, un-relatable, and more importantly false characters. Some of the reviews I have come across have compared the film to “The Beach”, but with homeless teenagers as the stars. Fair enough, except even with all the detractors “The Beach” had, at least that film was interesting and provocative. “Mouth to Mouth” has some kind of message and it doesn’t know how to present it, much less present cohesive scenes that flow in order to tell it's story. Characters go from punching each other in the mouths to hugging and laughing moments later with no explanation. Characters are introduced and then disappear for long spells, only to return when they are needed as slack-jawed spectators. Page stars as a confused teenage runaway named Bat in Eastern Europe. She meets an attractive young punk named Tiger (August Diehl) one day and he invites her to a meeting for a group named Sparks. Sparks is run by an American cult leader named Harry (Eric Thal), who encourages these teenage lost souls to reform their lives and to live off the land and be better people. This means traveling in a beat down van throughout Europe searching for the perfect Utopia spot. On the way helping it’s drug addled members kick the habit and digging through dumpsters for food and clothing. Bat, at first is hesitant, but she, as cult’s often do, is taken under the wing of it’s leader and convinced that this “new lifestyle” is what will be best for her. Meanwhile, Bat’s mom (Natasha Wightman) is searching for her daughter throughout the rave scene. Bat, apparently, didn’t have it too bad. Mom isn’t too bad off wealth wise and just wants her daughter back. She stumbles across the group when they finally reach their “Utopia” spot and suddenly she, too, falls under Harry’s spell. As things progress, Bat and a few of the others begin to see that there are severe flaws to this perfect world and lifestyle, but can’t seem to find a way out. After all, where else can they go? The idea for the film itself isn’t all together terrible. In capable hands, it could really have been a fantastic film. Murphy’s handling of it is so clumsy that it’s a hard watch. She doesn’t seem to have any affection for her characters, so why should we? Page gives glimpses of her talent, but she is stuck mugging around mostly and giving reaction shots and a few scenes where she gets into shouting matches with her mom. The rest of the oddball Sparks members do a lot of goofy “outrageous” bits and are sometimes punished, including Red (“Across the Universe” and “21”’s Jim Sturgess) who is forced to eat a handful of hot peppers after breaking into the wine cellar. When I first met my buddy Keith when I started working at Blue Cross, we got to talking about our favorite films. I brought up “Natural Born Killers” and Keith shuddered and told me that movie made him “want to take a bath” after he got done watching it. I never knew how he felt until after I got done watching “Mouth to Mouth”. This is one awful film.
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