Thursday, October 9, 2014

Another adaptation of a Highsmith novel

I'm not sure where The Two Faces of January ranks in the work of novelist Patricia Highsmith, whose work has enriched the movies with the Ripley stories and also with Strangers on a Train. In the hands of director Hossein Amini, the Iranian-British writer who's making his directorial debut, the big-screen adaptation of Two Faces comes off as a mixed achievement. Amini tells the story of an older man (Viggo Mortensen) who's traveling in Greece with his young wife Colette (Kirsten Dunst) in 1962. There, they meet a knock-about tour guide named Rydal (Oscar Isaac). Mortensen's Chester MacFarland has a dubious financial history. Rydal, whose morals aren't rock solid, either, begins to fall for Colette. Cinematographer Marcel Zyskind does right by locations in Athens, Crete and Istanbul, but the movie probably needed more volatility beneath its surface. Amini, who wrote the screenplays for Snow White and the Huntsman, Drive and Wings of the Dove, proceeds intelligently enough, but never brings the movie to sufficient boil. The performances, particularly from Mortensen are a plus.

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