Sunday, March 14, 2010

Head above Water (1996): Is the Movie above Water Too?

Head above Water
While it is easy to understand why Cameron Diaz would participate in a movie like Head above Water at the dawn of her career, it is not so easy to explain what Harvey Keitel is doing there. Because Head above Water is not a good film. It's boring, alienated and even predictable despite its numerous twists. It's a decent movie to watch on the TV but it's hardly a deserving feature to see in a movie theater.

The 3rd effort of Jim Wilson as director sports a small cast: the complete credited cast consists only of 5 actors. And while there are great movies with even smaller number of people participating in them, it is not the case here. The movie is about Nathalie (Cameron Diaz), an ex-drug addict and his husband George (Harvey Keitel), a famous and respected judge. They are on vacation at her summer house on an island where also lives Nathalie's childhood friend Lance (Craig Sheffer) who is not indifferent to Nathalie either. Suddenly, Nathalie's ex-lover Kent (Billy Zane) arrives while George and Lance are on a fishing trip and after some obscure circumstances, Kent turns out to be naked and dead in Nathalie's bed on the next morning and at the same time her husband and friend return from their trip. A series of messy events begins and everything becomes just more complicated and confusing towards the end of the movie. Thankfully, the number of characters and thus also the relationships between them decrease progressively so at least this is a relief.

The movie is billed as comedy / thriller and while it is a thriller, it can hardly be called a comedy, even a dark one. There are only occasional funny moments and even the funniest parts are mainly in the vein of weaker dark comedies. Head above Water tries to set several records: for a number of times a woman sets her free from fastening in a single movie; for the greatest number of lame fastenings; and maybe it also aims at the record for most unconvincing twists. That the film is not amongst the most believable ones should have become already well visible.

The acting is not necessarily bad although there is not much room for showing incredible acting abilities in Head above Water. Harvey Keitel has had definitely better roles and Cameron Diaz is not as beautiful as in other movies. Billy Zane's short screen appearance is also not among his most memorable performances. The direction is decent although far from perfect and the screenplay could be much more interesting and feasible.

If you catch Head above Water accidentally on the television and you don't have anything better to do, you can watch it. But then again, think how to avoid situations like this. Watching a second grade movie should not be your best occupation at any time.

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