Film review: Breaking and Entering

Breaking and Entering
2006
Miramax Films, Mirage Enterprises

STARRING Jude Law, Juliette Binoche, Robin Wright, Martin Freeman, Rafi Gavron, Ed Westwick, Vera Farmiga, Juliet Stevenson, Ray Winstone, Velibor Topic, Hu Ting Ting, Romi Aboulafia, Lisa Kay
WRITTEN BY Anthony Minghella
PRODUCED BY Timothy Bricknell, Anthony Minghella, Sydney Pollack
DIRECTED BY Anthony Minghella

SHOT BY Benoît Delhomme
EDITED BY Lisa Gunning
MUSIC BY Gabriel Yared, Karl Hyde, Rick Smith
DISTRIBUTED BY Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, The Weinstein Company, Miramax Films, Alliance Films

Screened on 2006-11-29

“Baby Steps”

Breaking follows Jude Law, Landscape Architect and emotional teenager, working to eliminate the “unsightly” green from London. When he isn’t at work he’s at home being emotionally distant to his 10-year girlfriend Robin Wright Penn and her one-dimensionally neurotic young daughter. Law cracks wise like a post-collegiate office drone, which after a decade has turned Penn into the emotional equivalent of a cancer victim, their interactions stunted by Law’s mounting singularity within his family unit. As interesting as that dichotomy could be, it comes off as awfully pedantic. Thankfully, or not, this storyline falls to the wayside for an hour as Law becomes tied up with two repeat robberies that have occurred at his office. For evenings, Law waits outside the office in his car like a trap-door spider to pounce on the ambitious burglar, eventually killing time with a Russian street whore (also one-dimensional) who thrusts herself into the scene and sticks around so flagrantly that she may as well say to him, “I’m the character in the story who serves you for [blank] reason.” Looking for solutions everywhere but where he should be, Law catches the 15-year-old Russian émigré burglar in the act and follows him back to struggling mommy homemaker Juliette Binoche, whose life Law weasels into and turns upside down without knowing why. While struggling to make sense of their insides, each character inevitably discovers his/her own impotence in dealing with everyday life, and catharsis is only reached after tantrum-driven melodrama. As Penn’s anxious daughter screams for attention at one point, Law sarcastically remarks “Oh yes, yell, that’s how we get what we want!” If it can work for children, there’s no reason it can’t work for adults.

This is emotionally manipulative filmmaking – one wonders if Minghella isn’t taking pointers from Paul Haggis. The film does resemble Crash in its unabashed moralizing, mock suspense, and lugubrious narrative thrust. In other words, Minghella wanted specific things to happen and when they didn’t come naturally enough, the audience is asked/nudged/forced to sit back while the characters cease acting like themselves to move things along. Minghella is quoted as saying that this may be his “rawest” film. At first this confused me greatly, as the film is rather sedate. What I think he means is that he laid his soul bare…but apprehensively so. We spend two hours watching Law mutter and putter about, a man barely connected to his own emotions, just to watch him finally say what was on his mind. In the stereotyped wisdom of foreigners, Russians Binoche and the hooker lament to Law that, for some reason, the British like to “Talk, and talk, and talk.” Well, they’re right, and Minghella unconsciously makes their point to a T. Exhibit C: Later on Law lays it bare and admits, “I don’t know how to be honest!” Minghella wants to be honest, but perhaps has seen too many movies – he thinks there’s a trick to it, thusly a film is created to explore “how to be honest” – though I’m skeptical as to how effective the result ends up being. In the end Minghella has succeeded in proving that he doesn’t understand his own sensitive side; if he did, he wouldn’t have had to break in.

written by David Ashley

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