Passion is a Brian DePalma film about the increasing rivalry between two women that ultimately leads to murder. Brian DePalma is known for masterpieces like Carrie, Sisters, and Dressed to Kill. He has had obvious success, but has also had some uninspired attempts in his career as well. This one, unfortunately, lies in the latter group.
There were some things right off the bat that I liked. We have Christine, played by Rachel McAdams, with white blonde hair and dressed in sophisticated light-colored clothing, and Isabelle, her assistant, with dark hair and wearing all black; an obvious distinction between the two and an attention to detail that I can appreciate. McAdams looks like a modern day Grace Kelly with great styling and costume design. The two women are working on a marketing project together with an underlying oozing sexual-tension between the two.
Isabelle is climbing the career ladder with Christine by her side. Christine takes her under her wing, giving her stylish gifts, introduces her to the right people, and pushing her towards success. She seems like the perfect boss until she takes credit for Isabelle’s work. But then again, you can’t feel too sorry for Isabelle when she is sleeping with Christine’s boyfriend.
This is when the film starts dwindling in value. They both are backstabbers and go back and forth using and manipulating one another. It’s like a grown-up Mean Girls, but with better shoes and without the humor. Christine is a seducer and puppet-master, always getting what she wants and when she wants. But Isabelle is secretive and has a dark side of her own. Their contention finally rises to a head that ultimately leads to murder. The murder scene is extremely disappointing with terrible special effects. This scene is shown as a split screen between the murder and a ballet performance. There is no point to this, other than the ballet being beautiful (of which I am partial to since I grew up dancing). DePalma is capable, and has been successful, of better work. The kill scenes in Dressed to Kill are a thousand times more frightening.
There is some going back and forth with who the real murderer is, or even if there was a murder, since many scenes are followed by one of the characters continually waking up in bed in a cold sweat, as if everything was a dream. I think the lesson here is that no favor is done with a kind heart. The classic film noir style is appealing but it isn’t enough with a slap-shot screenplay. The buildup is premature and the ending is inconclusive. I can enjoy a mystery ending but there are too many loose ends. Brian DePalma’s tale of obsession and deception proves to be a fruitless attempt with such unlikable characters. What a shame. Watch Single White Female instead.
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