Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Face of an Angel [2015]

MPAA (R)  RE.com (1 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C)  The Guardian (1 Star)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
RogerEbert.com (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review
The Guardian (P. Bradshaw) review
Slant Magazine (C. Dillard) review

The Face of an Angel [2015] (directed by Michael Winterbottom screenplay by Paul Viragh based on the book Angel Face [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Barbie Latza Nadeau [GR] [Amzn]) is a (fictionalized) film about a European born/accented Hollywood screenwriter/director named Thomas (played by Daniel Brühl) sent by a London-based production company to Siena, Italy to research a (fictionalized) sensational murder of an English college student named Elizabeth Pryce (played by Sai Bennett) which paralleled the circumstances of the actual sensational murder of English college student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy on the night of Oct 31-Nov 1, 2007 (Halloween).  

When Thomas arrives at the airport in Italy, he is picked up by American-(or English) ex-pat journalist Simone Forde (played by Kate Beckinsale).  Among her gigs were writing for various American publications out of Italy, including Newsweek and The Daily Beast.  And in the film, she's presented as having written a book entitled "The Face of an Angel" about the murder.  Forde's character is modeled after Barbie Latza Nadeau [GR] [Amzn], an expat journalist based in Italy who has written for Newsweek / The Daily Beast and who wrote the book Angel Face [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] on the Meredith Kercher case. 

Simone's first piece of advice to the arriving / no doubt still jetlagged Thomas is to "fictionalize" the story as "there is truth about this case that can only be written in a fictionalized style."  Va bene, so Thomas and Simone drive off to Siena investigate the fictionalized murder of Elizabeth Pryce (modeled after the actual murder of Meredith Kercher which took place in Perugia) the story of which, in a tip of the hat to Dante's descent into Hell in The Inferno, Thomas eventually decides to set in Florence ;-).

Yes there comes to be a Dantean Descent into Hell / Alice in Wonderland "looking glass" quality to the story that follows.  Among the cabal of paparazzi / journalists / bloggers following the "retrial" of American college student Jessica Fuller (played by Genevieve Gaunt and modeled after actual American college student Amanda Knox first implicated then exonerated in Meredith Kercher's murder) for the murder of Elizabeth Pryce are:

(1) the above mentioned Simone Forde, the American-(or English) expat writing for Newsweek / The Daily Beast;

(2) a Nancy Grace-inspired character named Sarah (played by Sara Stewart) who's been paid a fortune by Jessica Fuller's family to plead her case in the media;

(3) a British tabloid journalist, Joe (played by John Hopkins), whose "great coup" in the reporting on the Pryce murder was getting his hands on and then publishing salacious extracts of Jessica Fuller's diary;

and (4) a really creepy local Italian blogger named Francesco (played by Corrado Invernizzi) who also (we discover as the story progresses) owned a good portion of the rentable (including student) properties in Siena, and who frankly seemed to know way-too-much about the story than he should have.

Again, a true descent into journalistic Hell ...

To try to make sense of the case, and even the student ("partying") culture of today's Siena, Thomas eventually solicits the aide of a Beatrician "guide" in the form of an amiable English college student / barmaid-waitress named Melanie (played by Cara Delevingne). 

Much, often strange / obscured by a drug-induced haze ensues ...

In the end, does the film offer anything new particularly insightful about the tragic murder of Meredith Kercher on that fateful All Hollows Eve of 2007 in Perugia? 

I actually do think the film says a lot ... above all that beyond all the complexities / contradictions in the case ... at the end of the day A MURDER OF A YOUNG ENGLISH WOMAN OCCURRED.  Who did it?  Well ...

And perhaps, that's the horror of it all. 

All in all, IMHO a pretty good rendering of a story that is very difficult to tell.

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