English playwright Terrence Rattigan wrote a reasonably intense period piece about obsessive love back in 1952, when the residue of WWII was still fresh in everyone’s minds. Its female protagonist was widely recognized at the time as one of the great contemporary women’s roles. The Deep Blue Sea has now been interpreted in a new film by Terence Davies, with Rachel Weisz as the woman in question. Let me save us all some and trouble: She’s married to a prominent judge, whom she leaves because she’s madly in love with a ne’er-do-well ex-RAF pilot, who is confounded that she would attempt suicide because of him. Ninety minutes of angst and wallowing in self pity follows. For being in love, which Rachel claims, there’s an awful lot of wallowing. Then the pilot jilts her and takes off for South America. … End of film!
There, now, dear readers, you won’t have to subject yourselves to 90 minutes of dark melodrama and depression. And I mean dark. From the opening suicide attempt through the final bout of tears, nobody ever turns on the lights. The plot is revealed in a straight line, with no twists, reversals, or subplots. And it remains a rather dull exploration of addiction in defiance of logic or any realistic perception and understanding of the world outside the claws of blind love.
Why did my good wife and I do it – that is sit inside for ninety minutes in the dark on a perfectly gorgeous spring day? You might well ask. Four reasons only: In a rare film appearance, one of England’s finest actors, Simon Russell Beale, plays the judge. Secondly, it was playing at the Paris Theatre, a favorite New York movie house, the last of the single screens, which almost always exhibits exceptionally fine foreign and independent films, and which happened to be across the street from where we had just finished lunch. Third, the original stage play was called a successful, intimate and intense exploration of romantic obsession. And finally, its director, Terence Davies, supposedly knows what he’s doing, and reputedly his particular expertise lies with postwar period drama. I suppose I might also add that Rachel Weisz is a fine actress, and pretty easy to look at.
Still, all that wasn’t enough for us to take away any kind of positive feeling. You’d have thought I might have learned from my last entry not to put my trust in favorite actors. But alas, I’m sure I’ll continue to risk the price of admission to see the people I trust and respect. Everybody’s entitled to a flop once in a while. Besides, there are enough positive rave reviews of The Deep Blue Sea over on www.rottentomatoes.com to counter my little objections. Ya pays ya money and ya takes ya chances!