Sunday, December 30, 2007

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water...

This is a part of the Endings Blog-a-Thon over at JD's Movie Corner. I will be freely discussing the endings of several movies (none of which are Jaws, fyi) so don't blame me if you haven't seen these movies that range from 1989 to 2007.

Rob Schneider has reason to be terrified of being near the water in 1975's Jaws. Luckily for him he has never been in a movie with Nicole Kidman she is the real water killer.

Let's take a look at some of Nicole's movies and I think we'll see a definitely patern when it comes to her, water and - dun dun duuuun - DEATH!


Well, the name gives away half the fun, doesn't it? Water surrounds Nicole for 98% of this Phillip Noyce film, as she and Sam Neill (although mostly she) battle with Billy Zane on a yacht in the middle of the ocean. Death just seems to follow Nicole's character wherever she goes and Dead Calm is the first in the recurring theme of Nicole+Water=Death to be found on her resume.

By the end of this very good Aussie thriller from 1989, Billy Zane is floating facedown in the ocean with a flare in his face - and I am not being ironic or jokey about that last bit of info. He actually gets a flare fired into his face and gets thrown in the ocean.

I've never particularly liked this ending, actually. It's very much in the vein of "the killer comes back alive for one last scare", which usually bug the hell outta me. I can forgive it this time, however, because - hello - flare to the face!!

To Die For

In Gus Van Sant's media satire it's Nicole herself who ends up, quite literally, dead in the water. Or, more precisely, dead in the ice. As she goes on her way to deliver her star-making video confession Nicole comes across an unfortunate series of events that ends with her former sister in law doing pirouettes on her face.

That it was Canadian film director David Cronenberg who did the deed only adds to the black humour of it all. It's sort of a perfect ending for a movie such as To Die For. "DAVID CRONENBERG MURDERS NICOLE KIDMAN!" gasp

The Hours

It is Nicole herself, yet again, to reach an untimely watery demise, but unlike To Die For, it is she who does it herself. In her Oscar-winning role as Virginia Woolf she recreates Woolf's own suicide. Putting rocks into her pockets and walking - quite calm and serenely too I might add - right into the raging torrents of a river.

The ending of The Hours is far more serious than the previously mentioned films and by having Nicole kill herself in the very final frames doesn't exactly feel the audience leaving warm and fuzzy, I do like this ending and with Phillip Glass' excellent music (thankfully toned down a bit more than usual) makes for a very satisfying and moving closure.

Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus

We're back again to Nicole Kidman being the catalyst for death by water, except this time it's voluntary. At the end of Steven Shainberg's... exploration on the life of famed photographer Diane Arbus Nicole and Robert Downey Jr (who plays a man covered in hair) sit at a beach and they have a Point Break moment. It has been his dream his entire life to go to the beach and now that he has been freshly shaved by Nicole he finally can. He uses this opportunity to swim out into the ocean and never return. Sad.

I quite liked both the film and the ending. Downey Jr's character ends one life (his own) to start another (Diane's). It's nothing particularly deep, but it was a fine way to end that chapter of Diane's story.


And then we come to Jonathan Glazer's Birth. For me, it's one of the five best films of the decade so far and count myself as, perhaps, one of the film's biggest fans anywhere in the world. It's hypnotic and mesmerising. One of the aspects of the film that gets the most chagrin out of people is the ending, a particularly ambiguous ending that calls into question everything that came before, but not in a Usual Suspects kind of way.

Throughout the whole film Glazer does such a good job at making us try to believe that Nicole Kidman's deceased husband has indeed been reincarnated in the form of Cameron Bright that, even though we all know it's know possible, it makes the film work. Yet the end, for me, actually - on one hand - makes me question whether it was indeed a lie or if the boy was more than Anne Heche's character points out (you'll understand if you have seen it).

The end is set once again on a beach as Nicole's character Anne breaks down at her own wedding to Danny Huston's Joseph. As Cameron Bright's narration sounds over the soundtrack he face goes from happiness to confusion to, before long, utterly hysterics. It's a testiment to Kidman's talent that throughout the film she acts with her face and body and less with words (the opera sequence is the pinnacle, no doubt). There is a moment on the beach as Nicole stumbles aimlessly through the crashing waves where Joseph leans in and Nicole's face goes into shock. What is Joseph telling her (if anything) that could send her reeling? For me there are several explanations to the end of Birth.

One is that Bright's character of Sean was in fact the reincarnated form of Anne's dead husband and that for whatever reason she just comprehended the enormity of such a realisation - we all know she's been massively deluding herself all all along. Another is that Joseph is telling her that Sean killed himself - a point eluded to in his narration, "see you in another life" - and that they hadn't told her. Yet another thought is that the feeling she had was Sean dying at that very moment. Or even something as plain as merely having a panis attack. Then there are theories I have come up with that have no form of reason at all.

I adore the end of Birth. I think it's a testiment that for a movie that seemed like it was going to lead to an ending all tied up in a bow, explained for the masses, it throws a curveball at the very final moments and makes us ask questions. I tend to think the answer lies somewhere in the realm of Cameron Bright's Sean dying, but not even I'm positive. I have a more solid grasp on the end of Mulholland Drive than the end of Birth. Does the sea-side location of Anne's wedding represent something within her psyche? I can't quite answer that. Nor do I particularly want to, because to solve the riddle would be to lose "the spell" (to quote Sean). I actually think it's a perfect ending for a near-perfect film. The image of Nicole Kidman, dressed for a wedding, standing in the surf on an overcast beach is burnt into my mind. I love this movie and that ending.

And while I don't feel like writing it up, you can now add The Golden Compass to this growing list of Nicole+water=death endings shenanigans. There's major loss of life on the ice-fields of the North in that fantasy film only recently released. And all because Nicole is an evil child-snatching bitch. Oh, Nicole. I love ya! Just don't ever go near water ever again! Because whenever you do somebody bites the dust.


Rural Juror said...

I keep hearing such awesome things about Birth. I really need to see it. It's so great to see a film do such a 180 in terms of public perception of it

Brooke Cloudbuster said...

What a fascinating and interesting post. I never realised how much of Nicole Kidman's filmography had to do with water. Very awesome.

And, just reviewing The Hours a few days ago; I remember how potent that ending is, especially with the voice-over provided by Kidman. She nails it completely, even if the performance isn't the best. Or maybe it is. I have rapidly changing opinions on her performance with every viewing of this film.

Rural Juror said...

So . . . I saw this on your recommendation. I don't think the film quite came together for me, but Kidman was indeed fantastic. And I loved Anne Heche. So unhinged

Jaye Ramsey Sutter said...

I loved Fur. I thought it was amazing. It was set in about the same time the Feminine Mystique was written and the post war crushing of women who had been rather liberated by working on industrial lines, making their own money, living on their own.

The crush of a perfect house (why couldn't the kids clean their own rooms, what is wrong with Daddy being the tooth fairy and running a business--women do it all the time) and Lionel interested in her as she will be not as she doesn't want to be.

Just a great feminist picture and a brave one, too.

tim said...

I wish Nicole's films had a more substantial box office returns, especially Birth and Margot at the Wedding, because it's criminal that more people aren't experiencing her talent.

I've never seen a Nicole Kidman film and been distracted by other players. Even if the film is terrible, I'm always entranced.