out of 4
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|*Also starring: ||Danny Huston, Anne Heche, Lauren Bacall, Arliss Howard, Peter Stormare, Ted Levine, Cara Seymour, Alison Elliott, Zoe Caldwell, Milo Addica, Novella Nelson||
Review by Harvey Karten
2½ stars out of 4
While some in the audience might suggest that this "Birth" should be aborted,
the film is not at all bad just unbelievable with plot holes galore, featuring
upper-class people who would not think of challenging a ten-year-old's version
of the truth by pumping him with some real questions. Who is this
ten-year-old? His real name is Sean (Cameron Bright) but there's more to that.
He claims that he is the husband (also named Sean) of a woman, Anna (Nicole
Kidman) who appears to be now to be in her late thirties. Though most
ten-year-olds who look at thirty-seven year olds might be think they're doing
a big favor to give the time of day to "old women," this kid is different.
He's in love with Anna, though not in the way that a child in elementary school
may form an alliance with his favorite teacher. Though he never mentions the
term "reincarnation," the way he answers questions that only Anna's husband
dead for ten years would know.
Director Jonathan Glazer is patient. He spends considerable time allowing us
in the audience to gaze upon what he must consider key scenes. For example in
the very beginning we see the back of a man who is jogging in Central Park, a
jog that proceeds in real time for a couple of minutes until he collapses and
dies at which point Glazer takes us ahead by ten years to show us a woman who
is still grieving for her husband.
Would you marry a woman in this situation? Good luck to you, because there
will be three persons in the bed for a long time. This doesn't bother Joseph
(Danny Huston), who is either so in love with Anna that he's willing to put up
not only with her grieving but with her declaration that she is now in love
with a ten-year-old. Maybe it's the money Anna inherited, perhaps through her
mother, Eleanor (Lauren Bacall), which enables her to live with mom in a duplex
that appears to be on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, overlooking Central Park, the
same sort of pad where Jackie Kennedy Onassis during her final years.
When little Sean professes his love for a woman twenty-seven years his senior,
well, OK, kids say the darndest things. But would a member of the social
register, obviously intelligent and with far more experience with the world, be
so much taken in by the boy's story that in front of her fianc‚ she insists
that she loves Sean and then, even takes a bath with him?
"Birth," then, is a movie that does not set the proper tone. If this were a
supernatural thriller or mystery, we can accept reincarnation. As a story
about normal, overly rich New Yorkers, the plot lacks credibility. There are
some fine supporting roles, including one by Arliss Howard as Bob, a doctor who
tries to get to the bottom of the mystery but is unable to; by Lauren Bacall,
who is the one person with a sense of wit and irony, who says while dishing out
a piece of cake for the lad, "Are you enjoying your cake, Mr. Reincarnation?";
and by Anne Heche as one of Anna's friends, a woman who toward the conclusion
of the story thinks she knows whether little Sean is a fake or not. On the
whole, "Birth," despite the absurdity of a movie that is not offered to us as a
spooky reincarnation drama, is entertaining enough despite some unintentional
laughs we'll deliver at these denizens of Central Park.
Copyright © 2004 Harvey Karten
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