THE DEEP END
MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
Tilda Swinton as MARGARET HALL
Goran Visnjic as ALEK SPERA
Jonathan Tucker as BEAU HALL
Peter Donat as JACK HALL
Josh Lucas as DARBY REESE
Raymond Barry as CARLIE NAGEL
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Directed by: Scott McGehee and David Siegel
BY KEVIN CARR
“The Deep End” is an unconventional thriller with unconventional characters, unconventional actors and an unconventional pace. That serves the movie quite well, though it does put it in a category pretty much outside the mainstream. This might be part of the reason it has flown under my radar until now.
Released under the Fox Searchlight banner before films like “Slumdog Millionaire” and “12 Years a Slave” started winning the Oscar, “The Deep End” aims for a smarter audience than the run-of-the-mill thriller that its trailer suggests it might target. In fact, it ends up playing out more like a straight drama than a thriller, which is a nice diversion if you’ve already seen too many genre options.
“The Deep End” stars Tilda Swinton as Margaret Hall, a mother who discovers her son Beau (Jonathan Tucker) has been having an affair with Reno-based club owner Darby Reese (Josh Lucas). This results in her son getting drunk and being involved in a dangerous car accident. After she confronts Darby, he shows up at their home in Tahoe to once again seduce Beau. The next morning, Margaret find’s Darby’s dead body on the shore of her lake house home.
While she’s unclear how Beau is involved, she knows he is, so she hides the body. However, one of Darby’s associates, Alek Spera (Goran Visnjic), shows up to blackmail Margaret for the cover-up. While Margaret tries to scrape together the blackmail money, she evokes sympathy from Alek, which in turn angers his boss, who decides to get involved.
“The Deep End” plays with several themes – like homosexuality and blackmail – that aren’t necessarily uncommon in thrillers, but it handles them differently. Made in 2001, the stigma of homosexuality was stronger than it is today, though it’s not unusual for it to be used as leverage even today. There are other logical inconsistencies throughout the plot, but honestly, that’s not the point of the film.
Rather than being a plot-driven piece, it’s a character-driven one. The audience is brought onto Margaret’s side of desperation rather than the raw sympathy we would feel for the woman in trouble. This might be a result of Swinton not being the warmest and cuddliest of actresses, but it still works for the movie. Visnjic plays the sympathetic heavy well, again not falling for the pretty girl but rather for the somewhat pathetic creature he finds in the impossible situation.
The structure of the film is also quite unconventional, chronologically starting at the beginning but not actually beginning at the start of the story. Instead, we are thrown into the film without knowing its context, and the plot is revealed completely through the bulk of the film. This can be a daring choice for directors because it can alienate a confused audience, but ultimately it works in “The Deep End.”
Overall, “The Deep End” isn’t a great thriller, and the bright cinematography taking advantage of the beautiful location sheds much of the story’s noir history, but it’s a nice film to watch if you want something different.
The Blu-ray comes with a commentary featuring the writers/producers/directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel. There’s also an episode of the Sundance Channel’s “Anatomy of a Scene,” a making-of featurette, the trailer and a TV spot.