Review by Jack Foley
JULIANNE Moore is no stranger to delivering strong performances in worthy but disappointing movies. Savage Grace can therefore be added to the likes of The Forgotten and Freedomland as another one of those.
Moore plays Barbara Daly, an ambitious woman who marries above her class to Brooks Baekeland (Stephen Dillane), the heir to the Bakelite fortune. The two enjoy a tempestuous relationship and have a son, Tony (played by Eddie Redmayne), whose growing pains eventually rock the uneasy balance of the marriage and causes them to part.
But as Barbara attempts to deal with her loneliness, a new relationship begins to develop with Tony that sows the seeds for the shocking criminal acts that follow.
Based on a real-life crime story tinged with sexual undertones, as well as the best-selling novel of the same name by Natalie Robins, the film spans almost 30 years, from 1946 to 1972, and is split into six acts.
But while director Tom Kalin has mercifully kept proceedings to a nice, trim length, he also fails to deliver a single character worth caring about given that they all seem to exist in an air of arty petulance and self-importance that eventually becomes infuriating.
Moore, in particular, is feisty but unsympathetic as she manipulates the men around her and contributes to her own demise, while Redmayne provides a pretty insipid presence as her weak-willed son. Dillane and Hugh Dancy try their best to inject some charisma but are also foiled by the unappealing nature of their characters.
And while the sexual deviance that ensues is designed to lend the film its shock value, it merely succeeds in making the viewer feel as grubby as those involved.
In the end, the film’s failure to earn our empathy makes the tragedy that brings matters to a close feel more like a relief from the tortured existence of sitting through it.
Running time: 94mins
UK DVD Release: November 10, 2008