Brian De Palma directs this tale of two femmes fatales. Rachel McAdams plays Christi, the top dog at an ad agency and Noomi Rapace plays Isabelle, a member of her pack. They claim red and black for their colors, respectively.
R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, some grisly images, and language
When Christi takes credit for Isabelle’s kick-ass idea, she initiates the cycle of backstabbing that starts the film on its spiral. As Passion illustrates, “backstabbing” is mostly about framing stories to win the support of an audience. Whoever can tell the most convincing story wins support, adoration, and the right to write history. Rapace is pretty good at playing the good girl who discovers she has enough backbone learn how to fight dirty to defend herself. McAdams is fine in a role so over-the-top that it doesn’t require much nuance. Passion feels tawdry, sleazy, and lurid.
For some that may sounds like a plus.
Halfway through, the film slips into dark, surreal territory, where murder and fantasy blend together. De Palma shows us a murder, making us assume one killer, but giving us enough room to doubt whether what we saw was the whole story.
Professor and blogger David Bordwell recently wrote about directors of classic thrillers (specifically, Mildred Pierce) only revealing part of the story at the beginning, then filling in the gaps at the end. Done well, it’s a game played by the filmmaker and the audience.
Unfortunately, De Palma is intent on winning the game. Passion becomes so convoluted that it’s no longer fun to participate in the guessing game — it’s easier to just wait until the end and see who’s standing at the end.
My packed audience was inclined to laugh, though whether they thought the action was absurd or simply genre-fulfilling fun is impossible to say. I suppose it could depend on whether you see it in prime time or at midnight.