Famke Janssen, Rip Torn, Jaymie Dornan, Matt Ross
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Have you ever had it happen where you were sitting in the movie theatre watching a film when suddenly you got this unshakeable thought about another actor/actress who would be absolutely perfect in the film?
It's not so much that the person you're watching is horrible, but there's something that makes you think of someone else and "Bam!" you spend the rest of the film thinking how much better it would be with the other person.
This happened to me during "Turn the River," the feature film debut from writer/director Chris Eigeman starring Famke Janssen ("X-Men") as a pool shark trying to raise enough money to kidnap her child from her abusive ex-husband so that they can both escape to Canada.
Janssen offers the performance of her career, but I simply couldn't shake the idea that an actress like Minnie Driver would have taken the film to an entirely different level.
Janssen good. Driver better. It's that simple.
It didn't help that the very next film I would see would end up being "Take," the latest film starring, you guessed it, Minnie Driver.
Eigeman, who has a long acting history in television and film, shows promise as a filmmaker by creating a film with multi-layered undercurrents beneath what appears to be a rather basic storyline.
Janssen was present during the film's initial screening at the Indianapolis International Festival and spoke about her role as Kailey, a de-glamourized role that allowed her to stretch her acting muscles and show that she's a heck of a lot more than just a pretty face. While I occasionally found myself wishing for a little less stoicism and a little more expression, Janssen's performance is a revelation and should open doors allowing her to expand beyond her "X-Men" persona.
While his role is a tad too one-note, Rip Torn shines as Teddy, a pool hall owner and confidante of Kailey's. Jaymie Dornan ("The Notorious Bettie Page") does a nice job as Kaylie's conflicted young son, while Matt Ross ("Big Love") is quietly creepy as her ex-husband.
Despite Janssen's strong performance and Eigeman's promising direction, "Turn the River" is only modestly satisfying as it slowly begins to implode as Kailey's plans begin to unfold and are put into action. By the time the film ends, there's very little payoff for the suspense that has been built up over the previous 60+ minutes. The ending, in particular, lands with a soft "thud!" that may be authentic but feels like at least a modest copout.
While I found myself strongly preferring "Take," the film that followed this screening, "Turn the River" still garners a modest recommendation on the strength of Janssen's surprising performance and Eigeman's promising directorial debut.
© Written by Richard Propes
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Richard Propes, The Independent Critic