Reviewed on 2008 June 29
One question often asked reviewers is why they take the time to write about, let alone watch, a sub-par movie. For one thing, it’s nice to have a bare-bones, spoiler-free idea of what the movie is about, and that’s what I intend to provide. Once I’ve started watching something I intend to do my best to finish it — I may be working on an art project or doing loads of laundry or simply painting my nails while I watch the crapfest with one eye and scold myself for not doing something more productive, but Shukti is no quitter. Besides, it’s a learning experience. Sometimes the thing redeems itself; most often it’s a great example of unfulfilled potential.
This movie falls into that last category.
Sophie (Susan Sarandon) is a children’s book illustrator, living in Australia with Craig (Sam Neill), her rock star of an architect husband. Add a cool house and their two Mattel-cute children and it should be the sweet life, but Sophie is understandably rattled by the death of her mother and its impact on the relationship with her father. In the tradition of more things coming at you when you’re already at low ebb, her husband has an assistant that few women would feel good about: beautiful, competent Mara (Emily Blunt).
It’s bad enough to be tired, stressed, and have a woman that looks like she should be in one of those trendy mojito commercials zooming around your husband like a perfumed satellite. It gets worse when Mara really seems to be after Craig. Mara (initially) is subtle, and when you couple that with the fact that she has a gorgeous man and house of her own, you wonder if (or why) she really is messing with Sophie. Obtuse Craig of course reflexively rejects the idea that Mara has any more interest in him than any other subordinate. You can feel Sophie’s frustration at trying to get Craig to believe her, especially when a dress she had selected for a party vanishes from her closet and shows up on Mara, then re-emerges in her closet the next day, neatly on its hanger and apparently unworn.
It’s this kind of subtle stuff that could have driven us crazy and made the movie a win. The whole thing collapses when the movie tips its hand. Sarandon does a pretty good job of making Sophie look like she really is losing it, but the poor script has her doing things that are progressively dumber as the movie grinds on. Neill’s character is basically too thick-headed in some parts to be believed — I actually laughed out loud, both because I knew what was coming and because it was ridiculous — and despite Emily Blunt’s good acting, Mara went from complex to a cliche.
One chocolate morsel. Dumb, dumb, dumb.