Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Movie Review: The Illusionist

So, I finally got to go out and see a movie I wanted to see, for the third time this year. Lucky for me, it was only two months old, so there weren't many people in the theater.

Of course, that could also be due to the movie's premise, which goes something like "Edward Norton is a 19th century stage magician in Austria who loves a duchess".

Actually, I'm conflicted about this film. It's good --- I think --- but it doesn't quite satisfy. And I think that's OK.

See, it's not about a magician doing cool or spooky tricks (though he does). It's a love story, and a story about 19th century Austrian politics, which I wasn't exactly expecting, and for which I am not the target demographic.

The idea is that working-class Ed Norton falls in love with a duchess, society forces them to part ways as children, he becomes a magician, returns to Austria, ticks off the Crown Prince, tries to win the girl back, and gets continually harassed by a conflicted and confused Paul Giamatti, who plays a police inspector.

There's a little murder, a little conspiracy, and a whole lot of Ed Norton trying to act mysterious and cool and tormented but utterly failing to pull it off.

So on that level, it doesn't work. But the performances by Giamatti and Rufus Sewell as the inspector and the Crown Prince are absolutely worth the price of admission.

And yeah, there's a big trick at the end that you pretty much see coming, until the movie goes out of its way to convince you that it's not coming, so you still end up a little surprised.

And it's got a semi-happy ending! Which I ended up enjoying more than I thought I would.

It's not a thrill ride, it's a movie that takes its own sweet time getting to where it's going, and it ends up being more about redemption than anything else.

And for a movie I thought was going to be about just spooky magicians, that in itself is a nice trick to pull off.

Recommended For: Fans of period pieces, Paul Giamatti, or magic. People who haven't seen The Prestige yet.

Not Recommended For: People who demand action, people can't sustain their disbelief of Ed Norton's goatee for two hours straight.

A/V Rating: 3/5. Less clever than it wants to be, better than it has any right to be. A solid rental or matinee.

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