Reviews

'Breathless' Is an Interesting Set Piece, but It Won't Leave You Panting

It takes some talent to stage a film entirely in a trailer. The cast almost pulls it off.


Breathless

Director: Jesse Baget
Cast: Gina Gershon, Kelli Giddish, Ray Liotta, Val Kilmer, Wayne Duvall
Distributer: Anchor Bay
MPAA Rating: R
Release date: 2012-08-14

To give you a sense of what is at play with Breathless, and independent release with an impressive cast, imagine you are visiting the home of what are infrequent friends. Before embarking on a night on the town you begin with cocktails in their home and enjoy the talk. The pleasant conversation, however, begins to stray into weird areas after a few drinks, and before long you truly would like to move on before things become tense and uncomfortable.

Just like those acquaintances, this film holds an initial appeal; good performances, nice camera composition, and dialogue that bristles to fine effect. But at times scenes are allowed to meander, and the plot simply doesn't hold up over the running time. Much of the exercise holds that dichotomy of quality, going from enjoyable, to taxing, and then back and forth between the two. Sometimes the story rises above the thin plot, other times it becomes undone by the lack of substance.

The title sequence opens things properly. Tight framing is used to display everyday activities, the artful close-ups of food preparation used to foreshadow the limited set piece and graphic imagery we are going to be served; excepting only a few exterior shots this whole film takes place inside of trailer in the outback of Texas. Gina Gershon plays Lorna, a feisty and fed up chain smoker who has reached her limit with her lying and philandering husband Dale (Val Kilmer), who just happens to be lying unconscious on the floor as Lorna’s good friend Tiny (Kelli Giddish) arrives over to visit. Lorna explains that not only is she convinced Dale has been cheating on her, but she’s convinced that he was the one who executed a recent area bank robbery. As he is tied up and revived the conversation turns on where it is the denying Dale has stashed the $100,000.

When confronted with a story as confined as the setting the strength of a film like this relies entirely on the cast, and that is where Breathless excels. Gershon plays Lorna as strong-willed and commanding, and she modulates her accent so as to be believable and not cartoonish. Giddish is not lost in the wake either, delivering her Tiny as a reactive and natural ally. Adding to the quality is a script that gives them lines both filled with local colloquialisms and comically elevated language. These are women with an eye on things greater, but unable to see the path out of their lot. During a discussion where Lorna derides Tiny for preferring light cigarettes the friend replies, “Don’t hail me for trying to buy a little bit of extra time on this Earth, in case something worthwhile comes up.” However good they are on camera, though, what cannot be always conquered is the lack of substance in the story.

This is a character study hinged on the bank robbery plot, and gradually revelations are trotted out, and then a series of stark, and often very graphic, shocks are tossed at the audience. The tone here is dark humor, with most of it working to effect. What doesn’t work however is director Jesse Baget allowing many of the ensuing scenes to play out longer than needed. A tighter script and some disciplined editing would have streamlined the narrative; however I suspect this comes largely from the fact that the story didn't have enough to justify a feature length script. Two women conspiring to learn the location of the money, while exploring the realities of their lives, makes for some good scenes but just as many of those scenes continue too long and the interest evaporates. Even when outside characters are introduced – such as Ray Liotta as a sheriff convinced of wrong-doing in the household – the invigorated nature becomes drained by the extended nature of things.

There's enough at play here to justify a viewing. The acting, cinematography, and dialogue do carry things well, and there's enjoyment watching the character development. With more substance to the plot and a tighter rein on the scenes, this would be a title to rave about. As it stands it's enjoyable and at least worth the effort.

Extras: A standard behind-the-scenes video involves interviews with the producers and director. Save for a few production segments this is rote fare.

6

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image