In this decidedly amoral thriller, Vera Farmiga gives a jittery, complex performance as Kate, a high-strung Connecticut mother of two who has a breakdown after losing her third child in labor. Despite the fact that she is a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for less than a year, and despite the fact that she nearly let her son drown when she was drunk, Kate and her rich architect husband (Peter Sarsgaard) easily win permission to adopt a replacement child. Enter nine-year-old Esther (well-played by 11-year-old Isabelle Fuhrman), a Russian-born beauty whose sweet exterior hides devilish intent. Soon, Esther is doing away with her perceived enemies, a process that includes death-by-hammer and death-by-carving-knife. If director Jaume Collet-Serra (House of Wax), screenwriter David Leslie Johnson, and their big-time co-producers, Joel Silver and Leonardo DiCaprio, have any qualms about explicitly showing a little girl slaughtering people or attempting to seduce a grown man or pointing a gun at the head of her six-year-old stepsister (the wonderful Aryana Engineer), they have clearly worked through them (as have, apparently, the young actor’s respective parents). Silly, overlong, and bloody as hell, Orphan is likely to turn a sweet profit, money that Leo, the renowned do-gooder, should spend with shame.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 22, 2009