Review: Savage Grace (1/5)

Based on the book “Savage Grace: The True Story of Fatal Relations in a Rich and Famous American Family”, this film chronicles the tragic story of moral decadence of the globetrotting buena familia, the Baekelands. The poseur and aspirational socialite Barbara (Julianne Moore) marries Brooks (Stephen Dillane), heir to a fortune built on the first synthetic plastic – Bakelite. When their marriage disastrously falls into pieces, Barbara’s relentless needlessness lead to a smothering and dysfunctional relationship with her son Tony (Eddie Redmayne).

“Savage Grace” is about a family, but is not intended to be a family movie if you know what I mean. It deals with disturbing elements that can turn conservative moviegoers off. Throw in sexual perversion, adultery, homosexuality, incest, matricide, and schizophrenia, and you’ll understand why critics have literally walked out while the movie is being screened in various film festivals around the world. In this uncharacteristic mix, it feels that this movie is exploitative of the dynamics of the Baekeland family for the sake of cinematic tension.

Putting that aside, this film could have been an interesting tragedy but is wasted on slapdash narrative and shoddy characterization that do not capture the passion the film aims to embody. Director Tom Kalin’s treatment to “Savage Grace” doesn’t even feel like he is telling a story. He divided the history of the Baekelands into six chapters from 1946 to 1972, told in vignettes that don’t quite make up a cohesive whole. They are like stand-alone episodes of an unwatchable mini-series that begin and end abruptly without making sense. This piecemeal treatment undermines the potential of a good dark family drama.


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