Nobody Wants the Night Review

Posted: March 13, 2015 in 2015 Berlinale, Drama, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

NWTNOne thing can be said for the selection of Nobody Wants the Night as the opening film for the 2015 Berlinale – it established a theme that recurred with regularity throughout the festival, most particularly in the Competition program. Unfortunately, that theme can most charitably be termed “unfulfilled expectations.” (A less diplomatic, but equally accurate description would be “bad movies from good directors.”) Five of the 19 films angling for the Golden Bear for Best Film fell under this description as audiences suffered through subpar products from Werner Herzog, Terrence Malick, Benoit Jacquot, and Peter Greenaway in addition to the disappointing film that kicked off the proceedings. Director Isabel Coixet’s contribution was not the worst (that distinction belongs to Greenaway’s Eisenstein in Guanajuato), but it may well have been the most amateurish.

Ostensibly set in Greenland, but mostly filmed on incredibly unconvincing sound stage sets, Nobody Wants the Night is a melodramatic look at an episode in the life of Josephine Peary, wife of Arctic explorer Robert Peary, who was inaccurately regarded as the first man to step on the North Pole for almost a century. Josephine was no stay-at-home soccer mom. She was a distinguished linguist in her own right and accompanied her husband on a number of his expeditions in search of the Pole, but maybe not quite as often as she should have, given that Mr. Peary found time for a hook up with an Inuit woman with whom he reportedly had two children. Coixet and screenwriter Miguel Barros cherry pick their facts from the historical record to cobble a story together that sees Josephine searching for her husband, but finding his mistress instead. Hilarity ensues – all of it unintentional.

Juliette Binoche is given the unenviable task of portraying Josephine as a shrew who commands men and dogs to to mush to their death while hauling her, her silverware, and her phonograph north toward her missing husband and his dwindling band of merry men. Gabriel Byrne is given the George Clooney treatment in Gravity, bowing out early, and serving as an ethereal guide after that. Binoche has no luck in generating any sympathy for her character, but does earn her share of boffo laughs for the scene which has her rolling around on the ground and eating snow in anguish after learning that the noble savage also waiting for the return of Robert, Allaka (Rinko Kikuchi), is hugely pregnant with a little Peary.

Yet, the two women somehow put aside their differences and find common ground: a desire not to freeze their asses off. Along the way, there is occasion for Ms. Binoche to use the title of the movie as a line of dialogue, while Allaka learns tableware. (Note: It would all have been worth it if when Allaka says, “Fork,” Josephine, had answered, “Yes, fork, you whore,” and stabbed her in the eye. No such luck.) Of the many highlights this film offers to fans of bad film, one stands out: the birthing scene. Mercifully, we see nothing more than a metaphor which has Josephine bursting through the cap of a frozen igloo while the baby’s burts through Allaka’s you-know-what.

The movie is so groaningly bad at times, that you can’t help but wish that it would do enough box office business or otherwise attract enough attention to get the full, rich satirical treatment that it deserves from Saturday Night LiveThe Simpsons, and, yes, even a parody in Mad magazine. Alas, it’s not to be. This one is likely already earmarked for an early debut on VOD after a limited theatrical run. For the exact trajectory, look to the recent Jennifer Lawrence-Bradley Cooper bomb, Serena. At least the London Film Festival, which hosted the world premiere of that movie, had the good sense to not make it the opening film.

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