Monday, August 08, 2011

The Ledge…When Beliefs Kill

The movie got pitiful reviews, but surprisingly, generated quite a bit of interest in the festivals and amongst those who sat and watched the film.
By Sumaya Samarasinghe
If one actually takes a few minutes to think and see how many features surprise you, have unpredictable endings or even for a split second make you ponder over an issue which never really bothered you before, and by this, I don’t mean the invasion of planet earth by Transformers or Decepticon; this may really not happen that often.
The Ledge is far from perfect but it does pose some questions which I am guessing not many of us have bothered to think about while enjoying our morning cup of coffee. The film drags at times and Liv Tyler’s dead pan tone, does not help to keep the viewers interest going. Like in most of her roles, she floats around and looks beautiful, but here she seems a little tired and too old at the age of 34 to be a college student. Of course, she is meant to be in a completely submissive relationship with her evangelical husband and cannot display strong and rebellious emotions until Gavin appears in her life.
The male cast is fabulous, each of them portraying their complex roles extremely convincingly with one regret though, that Terrence Howard’s story isn’t given more depth and prominence. Howard is his usual wonderful self and gives a poorly written role a level of intensity, which makes him steal the show.Though The Ledge really begins with him; the interesting issue he is having regarding the paternity of his children is brushed under the carpet and many questions remain unanswered.
The beginning of the film is gripping. Officer Hollis, played by Terrence Howard is having the worst possible day. During a routine medical check up, he finds out that he is sterile and has always been, and, therefore his two children are not his biological ones. But he is unable to deal with the situation because when he is on the verge of confronting his wife, he is called to play mediator with a jumper who, you have guessed, is perched on the ledge of a building and is contemplating suicide. Hollis is quick to figure out that Gavin (British actor Charlie Hunnman) is not standing on that ledge by his own free will and by means of flashbacks, he will tell his story to the officer before the clock strikes noon. After that, he says he will jump and it is up to Hollis to convince him not to do so.
Gavin is a smooth talking hotel manager who begins to covet Shana, the lovely wife of his fundamentalist Christian neighbour, Joe. Of course, coincidence plays a huge role in the story because Shana walks into Gavin’s hotel to look for a part time job to pay for her college education. After she gets the job, Shana and her husband invite Gavin and his gay flat mate for dinner and it is at that point that we establish the religious beliefs of each party. The fanatically fundamentalist Joe has turned to Christianity, we will get to know later on, following a personal tragedy and after “finding God”, he proceeded to save Shana who was a drug addict and makes her his second wife.
One couldn’t blame Christian fundamentalists if they objected to the brilliant portrayal of Patrick Wilson’s Joe Harris. We all have a set of clichés linked to these new age churches and the film follows them to the letter.
People get attracted to these churches frequently after a huge change in their lives occurs, generally a tragic one, and they often become more judgmental and less opened to those who do not follow their faith. The desire to convert anybody they can get hold of, especially people in vulnerable situations, seems to be beyond their control and that too comes out in The Ledge when Joe who has just only met Gavin and his gay roommate calls homosexuality an abomination which the church can “sort out.” Matthew Chapman the director is balanced in his judgment of the atheist Gavin and the fundamentalist Joe and despite the fact that Gavin is of course warmer, funnier and more loving to Shana, Chapman never fails to acknowledge that Joe under his rigid and cold behaviour, is a man who deeply loves his wife and will stop at nothing to keep her. Shana herself describes him as a “good man” who devotes a large part of his time providing comfort to the ill.
In one sequence, Joe invites Gavin for dinner to openly discuss their views and quite naturally the discussion becomes heated as none of them want to back down and consider the viewpoint of the other.
On a technical basis, the film lacks polish and its style resembles a TV movie of the 80’s.
But on the whole, this is a film which could be watched in a group with the aim of generating discussion about religion, atheism and just one’s inability to listen to another person’s viewpoint, which is often the cause of so many conflicts.
The Ledge is far from being a masterpiece but at least it makes you think, a rare result with the films produced these days.
Courtesy - The Sunday Leader