Best friends make the worst enemies
David and Jenny are platonic college "buddies" who share a passion for the arts, if not for each other. At the end of their junior year, David runs into his old freshman roommate, Alan, and the two long lost friends rekindle their awkward friendship. Alan is immediately smitten with Jenny. David is protective, but also respectful of Jenny's growing infatuation with Alan. The three compatriots share many good times together. But as Alan and Jenny grow closer, David becomes distant and aloof. Tensions mount until a terrible accident leaves David badly injured, Alan in a coma, and Jenny dazed and confused. The police are called in to try and figure out what went wrong. Did Jenny attack Alan because she found him cheating on her? Did Alan attack the others, blaming them for his on-campus drug bust? Or is there something more disturbing and obsessive going on here between the lovers and the one left out. It's up to the investigating officer to uncover the truth and to find the reality buried in the Tangled lives of the irrevocably intertwined trio.
There is a decent movie buried somewhere at the core of the over-stylized, underdeveloped mess called Tangled. Like the old decaying mansion that figures so prominently in the storyline, there are some intriguing, atmospheric components to it. And also just like that moldy old homestead, there is the undeniable fact that the story being told here is so familiar and run down that there's hardly a chance that the result would or could be interesting. A complicated love triangle that ends in murder and mystery has been so exaggerated that nothing fresh could possibly be made from it. And yet Tangled tries, in some very odd, not quite successful ways to give new life to the genre. For one, it decides that making the characters very intelligent and thoughtful people will somehow distinguish it from all the other faux thriller claptrap. (Wrong!). It believes that offering scenes set in abandoned barns and ivy covered, crumbling conservatories will add a sinister shimmer to the formula. (Wrong again!). And it assumes that casting actors that look like underdeveloped fetuses without strong personalities or dynamic performance skills will, at the very least provide some barely legal eye candy (Oh, boy…). This Calvin Klein underwear commercial as let's play dress-up adult sexual thriller has very few entertaining moments and only a couple of sequences packed with emotional realism. But in the end it's all for nothing. Tangled is a movie that suffers not only from being overly familiar but riddled with structural and production misfires.
The first problem here is the aforementioned casting. While all the young performers acquit themselves adequately, they cannot escape one ironclad fact: they each look like they needed another day or two in the womb to finish fleshing out their features, let alone their personalities. They are so nondescript and generic in appearance that they seem foisted upon the world half formed. And while looking young, bland, and vague may play directly into the appropriate demographic market scheme to maximize movie ticket and DVD sales, it destroys any tension or drama that is attempted. When an adult acts childish and jealous, it has the potential makings of interesting, unpredictable cinema. When an actor who looks like he or she is still in middle school behaves like a spoiled, insolent brat, it's nothing but par for the course. While it may seem unfair to criticism someone for resembling a zygote, it's crucial to understand the importance of gravitas as it applies to Tangled. Choosing a performer like Shawn Hatosy as your leading man may make good adolescent fan base sense, but he's not serious enough, either in look or mannerism, to be effective. When he's supposed to be seething with unrequited jealousy, he's looks like the Gerber baby pitching a fit. Rachael Leigh Cook is not much better. While an attractive young actress, her only scripted attribute is to be fetching. And again, without a mature quality to anchor her, all the gloomy machinations surrounding her float off into the atmosphere, lightweight and meaningless. Only Jonathan Rhys-Meyers projects the kind of devil may care menace that is necessary for his role as the bad boy danger element. But the minute he breaks the bravado beneath his furrowed brow glare, he too becomes a whiny, whimpering rug rat. The characters involved in this story may have some heft to their scripted lives, but the actors chosen to portray them are decidedly weak.
It's questionable if even the most intense, method thespians or big name Hollywood superstars could save Tangled. Some of the blame falls squarely on the script by Jeffrey Lieber. It would have been so much more original and memorable to treat the various lust and love permutations of the characters in a manner that didn't result in stalking, violent obsession and various felonious acts. There is a good movie to be made out of the simple story of unrequited love and pining from friendship afar. But Tangled is definitely not that film, nor does it even want to try to be, apparently. Director Jay Lowi also consistently hobbles the project with some very lame artistic decisions. Tangled trots out the tired "interrogation/flashback" narrative structure like it's some new fangled cinematic find. It convolutes the storyline so we only get snippets of character, fragments of plotlines, and jarring jumps in time and temperament. All this does is leave the audience on the decidedly uninformed end of the mystery until it's almost too late. You see, if you don't give a paying customer all the reasons to stay around right up front, you are relying of the strengths of other aspects of the film (acting, directing, writing) to pull them along until all the colors are filled in. But when Tangled finally turns over its cards and reveals its ace in the hole, the "surprise" twist is underwhelming. It's not that it has been telegraphed or poorly developed. But without giving it all away, it goes back to relying on our perceptions of the characters, characters that, thanks to the casting, have been rendered ineffectual as evil threats. In the end, Lorraine The Sopranos Bracco has been wasted in what is little less than a cameo role as a professional listener (read: cop who conducts the interrogation) and we squirm in our seating wondering what we've just had to suffer through.
Interestingly, Dimension Films release of this DVD title is fairly good. We get an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 transfer that is very clean and incredibly detailed. Several scenes in the abandoned farm and mansion are borderline breathtaking and there is a weird heart to heart talk between the male characters in a field as they fly kites (that's right, as they fly kites) that's a cinematographer's delight. As for sound quality, the Dolby Digital 5.1 is also superb. There are great atmospheric immersion qualities to many scenes, the channels exposing eerie background noises and disconcerting spatial effects throughout. We are not treated to a great deal of additional material here, just a trailer and a decidedly obtuse Dimension Films extra. Apparently, in order to convince you that the bonus trailers for movies other than Tangled are worth watching, the disc makers have provided a little mini-movie puff piece introducing the "Dimension Film Ideal" to an unsuspecting world in all of its derivative, B-movie mentality. After sampling this back slapping slickness, you may want to burn the studio down, not partake further of this motion picture marketing. In the pantheon of psycho sex thrillers, Tangled is just slightly better than the average USA made for TV mung that pretends to be suspenseful, erotic entertainment. But with its immature cast, script, and direction, it's like those dreadful short subjects made in the 1930s starring semi-dressed babies wearing makeup and babbling through disconcertingly adult situations. And if that thought alone doesn't leave you feeling prickly enough, one viewing of Tangled definitely will.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Dimension Films
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