‘Passion’: Overcooked

August 27, 2013


“Passion” isn’t Brian De Palma’s first remake, but it may be his worst: an over-inflated, melodramatically hot-blooded version of what was a cool French thriller.

The French film, 2010’s “Love Crimes” from Alain Corneau, starred Ludivine Sagnier as the ambitious but mild-mannered No. 2 to a snaky executive played by Kristin Scott Thomas. When Thomas’s character grabs a promotion by claiming credit for Sagnier’s ideas and work, Sagnier murders her. Which is when the fun begins.

De Palma, who adapted the screenplay, keeps the plot and even the individual story beats intact. Yet he inflates it with operatic excesses, in the camera work, the music and, most particularly, the plotting, infusing it with his sensibility, which seems exactly wrong for the material.

His casting also seems off. When I first heard that Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams were leading the cast, my assumption was that McAdams would step into Sagnier’s role; in fact, Rapace plays the put-upon underling who decides to take her career advancement into her own hands, rather than relying on an unreliable mentor. And she’s fine in the role, just as McAdams falls easily into the mean-girl role because, well, “Mean Girls”

Yet “Passion” always feels stagey and never feels mysterious. While the plot is the same, here it feels contrived. Where the original felt clever and unpredictable, this film feels random and haphazard.

Sure, there are shocks: At 72, De Palma could make this movie in his sleep. He instinctively knows how to manipulate the viewer with his “is this a dream or is it real?” moments. But while he deploys his trademark split-screen to ratchet the suspense, there is very little tension, which was a hallmark of the original.

De Palma was one of the great cinematic stylists of the 1970s and 1980s; he was one of the few filmmakers who understood how to tell a story through visuals in the way that Alfred Hitchcock did, rather than the “all is one” feel of Terrence Malick.

Unfortunately, “Passion” is a misfire from start to finish. Track down “Love Crimes” to see what all the fuss is about.

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