Is it just January, or is independent film so depleted that the excellent likes of Hope Davis, Alfred Molina, and Philip Baker Hall have to grind away at breathing life into a dreary L.A. noir do-over of a 1927 Alfred Hitchcock silent classic? David Ondaatje, a first-time writer-director (and nephew of novelist Michael Ondaatje) blessed with little technical skill and fewer ideas in his style-obsessed head, favors speeding clouds, speeding freeway cars, and opera on the soundtrack as filler, while a curved-blade slices through unhappy hookers in the exact manner of Jack the Ripper. In other news, across West Hollywood there dwells an unsatisfied housewife (Davis) whose unfeeling lummox of a husband (Donal Logue) keeps telling her to take her meds and keeps abandoning her for the ambiguous charms of their lodger (Simon Baker), who vants to be alone. Striving to connect the dots is a weary cop (Molina) mired in the usual overwork and domestic misery (amusingly, Mel Harris, once the chipper keeper of the thirtysomething flame, is his suicidal wife), and dang me if he doesn’t fall under suspicion, too. Nodding, winking, and sighing, The Lodger lumbers its way to a final twist so anticlimactic and silly as to warrant an incredulous titter.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 21, 2009