Directed by Jim Sheridan
Starring Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz
Review by Wayne C. Rogers
First, I’m learning that if you want to be a writer, you can’t read other people’s books (friends or not) or even go to the movies. You can watch older films on DVDs, if you’ve already seen them. The reason for this is that you inevitably will either read or see something that you already have in your new novel or screenplay. Then, you’ll have to waste time going back and changing the piece of information or scene to something else because if you don’t, people will swear you stole it from this or that. I’ve already encountered this particular situation four-or-five times, and I am growing tired of having to change stuff around.
Second, a film can be made good or bad by the editor. A lot of films have been saved in the editing room and have gone on to become great movies. Some, however, were lost. Case in point is Dream House, staring Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz. The production company, Morgan Creek, took the film away from its director, Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father), and edited it themselves, thinking Sheridan was going to lose them money. Whether he would have or not is another question. The fact is that Morgan Creek did little or nothing to make Dream House a better film. Though the first half was pretty good, the ending was terrible and didn’t make a lot of sense to me.
The lead actors and the director seem to feel the same way about the finished product because they’ve refused to do any publicity for the movie. Jim Sheridan even wanted his name taken off the credits. Also, one of the trailers for the movie that Morgan Creek put out gives a major plot point away, so I’m not going to worry about revealing too much in this review. I will say that I went to see the film based pretty much on the acting abilities of Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz who play Will and Libby Atenton, and Naomi Watts who plays the neighbor across the street, Ann Patterson. It should have been a truly excellent horror film with those three actors in it and Jim Sheridan as the director. How could you go wrong with this caliber of acting and directing?
Another point to be made here is that the trailer for the movie is great. I have to give Morgan Creek credit for that. It looks scary, and it does exactly what a trailer is supposed to do, which is to get you into the theater to see the movie. It worked on me. Of course, it helps that I’ve had a crush of Rachel Weisz since The Mummy and The Mummy Returns.
The story centers on Will Atenton (Craig), who’s an editor for a major publisher. He quits his job to stay home with the family and write a bestselling novel. Being a writer myself, I can honestly say that I didn’t really see Craig doing much writing, which is probably good. The life of a writer is generally boring. Anyway, his wife, Libby (Weisz), and their two little daughters (Taylor & Claire Geare) nearly steal the whole movie. I enjoyed the scenes with them being a family more than I did the action sequences. Their portrayals of a loving family are so vivid and strong that you can’t help but fall in love with them yourself and wishing you had a wife and a pair of kids like that.
There was one scene where Rachel Weisz’ character is sleeping in bed when her husband gets up to check out a noise downstairs. She opens her eyes as he leaves the bedroom. The way the lighting highlights her face took my breath away. I’ve never seen a woman who looks more beautiful than Rachel Weisz does at that precise moment.
Daniel Craig is no slouch, either. He has a bod that guys would kill to have. As a matter of fact, women would kill to have his body, too. He certainly holds his own with the ladies in the film and actually makes you believe he’s a real-life dad. He looks totally at ease with the kids and happy. I don’t think he’s acting in some of the scenes. He simply looks too happy at what he’s doing and makes me envious.
Okay, so it isn’t long before Craig discovers that a family was massacred inside the house before he and his family moved in. Supposedly, it took place five years before and the father (Peter Ward) killed everyone – his wife and his two children. After a number of things have taken place, Craig decides to find out more about this Peter Ward and visit the insane asylum where Ward is being kept.
Since it’s in the trailer, it’s no secret that when Craig gets there, he quickly discovers that he, in fact, is Peter Ward. He’d been released after five years because there was no hard evidence tying him to the murder of his family. Everything that has been taking place up to that point has been nothing but an illusion on Craig’s part. I will say that when Craig first visits the asylum, his hair is combed back and he has a five-day growth of beard on his face. There are a few close ups where he does look insane and capable of cold-blooded murder. In the video he’s shown by the director of the institute, he reminded me a little of Hannibal Lector in the close-up shots.
Of course, in the back of your mind, you know Craig didn’t kill his family. He loved them too much, and it showed in his interaction with the wife and two loving children. The question is if he didn’t do it, then who did? This is where the second half of the film falters and loses the audience. We kind of already know who killed them because the killer is introduced early on in the film. What we don’t know for sure is why? It turns out that it was all just a stupid mistake on the killer’s part. He went to the wrong house and killed the wrong people. Dud? And that’s all I’m going to say. Well, I will say this. No one could have gotten out of that burning house at the end. I’ve been in fires. I know what the heat and smoke can quickly do to you.
So what’s the verdict here? This movie isn’t as bad as some critics say; nor, is it a real winner. I’d probably rate it five stars for the first half and two for the last. It would be interesting to see what Jim Sheridan’s version of the movie would have looked like. Who knows? The studio might have him finish his version for a DVD release. This has happened with other directors. Mel Gibson’s Payback comes to mind.
If you go see it, do so because of Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz. I feel their performances are excellent.
There was a scene in the movie where Daniel Craig is escorted out of an office by four BIG burly security officers, who seem to be looking for an excuse to kick his butt down the corridor. I found myself thinking that you don’t want to mess around with James Bond because he will do a complete number on all of you at one time. I kept hoping they would try something, but they didn’t. Ah, well.
Last, I did see the previews to Craig’s next movie, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which is due out in another month or so. I’ve read the novel and seen the European version of the film. Still, the trailer looked damn good and it succeeded in hooking me. I have a feeling this film will be nominated for a lot of Oscars, especially in the Best Actor and Best Actress category.