Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Grand Isle - 2019 film review

The other night I was watching, not for the first time, the post-war black-and-white movie Sorry, Wrong Number. It was based on a radio play, and the basic material is very simple, albeit expanded for the film. It's a masterpiece of economy as well as suspense, squeezing every ounce of tension out of the set-up. I thought about it when I was watching a recent film, Grand Isle, which in many ways could hardly be more different. 

The setting in the old film is restricted - it's essentially a 'home invasion' story - whereas Grand Isle is a real place in Louisiana with an interesting history and tons of atmosphere. It's vulnerable to hurricanes, and a hurricane is coming when the story begins. Grand Isle benefits from the presence in the cast of Nicolas Cage and Kelsey Grammer, as well as a situation ripe with possibilities. 

A young man called Buddy (Luke Benward) who is desperate for money is given a handyman's job by Cage, playing a menacing ex-Marine, and his seductive wife Fanny (KaDee Strickland). Their house contains secrets, that seems certain. There's more to this set-up than home invasion.

Unfortunately, the script squanders the potential of the situation, to an extent that I find astonishing. Much of the story is told in flashback, in a way that became irritating. Even the big reveal at the end is thrown away, reported rather than played out before our eyes. The current approval rating for the film on Rotten Tomatoes is 0%, and although such measures are imperfect, and the film is actually better than that, it really is a disappointing waste of talent. Give me Sorry, Wrong Number any day.


arkady hughes said...

Well, that doesn't tempt me (smiley face). But, on the plus side your review encouraged me to go and watch Sorry, Wrong Number again. I remember it as being a fairly standard film noir but it's actually more a Hitchcockian suspenser much like Suspicion or Notorious and even has the economy of Hitchcock, not only literally in the brilliant backdrop montage honeymoon sequence (ha), with a great roving camera opening minute giving you everything you need to know about the characters (much like the opening of Rear Window). Stanwyck's father is particularly disturbing (no spoiler but that room) and I love the many shots of her with her father's photo just over her shoulder or behind her like a creeping presence forever in her life, no wonder Burt was a bit miffed. The father photo thing reminded me of the brilliant and scary Hammer horror Scream/Taste of Fear. Oh dear, I'm rambling.

Martin Edwards said...

Interesting, thanks. I too like Sorry Wrong Number better the second time around. And it helped that this time I knew a bit about Staten Island!