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Movie ReviewsLuce – A Challenging But Incomplete Puzzle

dannythemoviemanAugust 2, 201967/100
Starring
Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Kelvin Harrison Jr.
Writers
J.C. Lee, Julius Onah
Director
Julius Onah
Rating
14A (Canada), R (United States)
Running Time
109 minutes
Release Date
August 2nd, 2019
Overall Score
Rating Summary
Luce is a thriller that may do a lot of things well but it can't quite live up to its early film festival praise thanks to a lack of character development, resulting in an empty experience.

Out of all the film that appeared at this year’s Sundance film festival, one of the most talked about entries was a film simply called Luce, with many attendees boldly stating that the film will be one to look out for come fall awards season. Now that the film has finally being released to the general public, it’s hard to say that this early praise isn’t solely festival hype. Luce is absolutely a strong film, and that’s no question, but it just seemed like a lot of the intricacies within the film either were missing entirely, or could’ve been done better.

Luce‘s story is very intriguing and proved to absolutely one of the stronger parts of the film. Considering the film is a follow up to the critically-panned The Cloverfield Paradox, Onah helms something with a tight knit concept here that allowed for a lot of intrigue. This screenplay has many of the necessary aspects for a great social thriller – mystery, political intrigue and a truth that may not be authentic. The story itself is solidly put together, leading to a decently entertaining film.

Although the characters in Luce themselves aren’t as captivating as they could’ve been, the actors absolutely are. Watts and Tim Roth as Amy and Peter Edgar do an incredible job in this Funny Games reunion, doing a good job at creating a middle ground for the mystery at the center of the film. Meanwhile, Harrison, Jr. and Spencer as the titular character and Harriet Wilson also do a pretty decent job at keeping you captivated through the developing of the central mystery.

However, it still feels like some crucial pieces are missing from Luce, and a majority of them do source for how the characters aren’t written that strongly. More than anything, what distracts from the strong story here are that these characters don’t feel authentic enough to be a part of a story like this one. To begin, Luce is portrayed in a way that doesn’t even make him look like someone who has suffered trauma, or someone that is in high school. He acts like a middle aged american, and it’s hard to get behind his backstory when he isn’t portrayed as flawed in any way.

In addition, the way that Luce covers the American high school experience is far from the truth, and this image of high school and how it works feels both extremely dated and obviously portrayed from an outside perspective. Meanwhile, Wilson’s motivation isn’t clear at all – and it’s baffling to think why she would take issue with Luce. Because of how little development there is to her character, it makes it quite difficult to find any stakes in her side of the story. With that, the intrigue of the story dwindles to something that doesn’t feel as serious as it should be.

Although it’s definitely not the film it was portrayed to be through it’s rave reactions at various film festivals, Luce definitely does do a lot right, particular in the political and performance department. Unfortunately, the minimal development of the characters creates for a thriller that doesn’t feel as stake-filled or serious as it should be, considering the subject matter.

*still courtesy of Neon*


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