"Conspiracy Theory" Review
© 1997 Fontaine L.
- spoilers -

Talk about a conspiracy theory. How this script became a movie is a conspiracy itself--it seems as if it can't decide where it's going. It's a movie that starts going somewhere, and degenerates in the middle. As likable as the two stars (Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts) are, I can't bring myself to like this movie. At least, not wholeheartedly. True, this movie (like every other, no matter how bad they are) has its moments, its musical score being the best of the summer blockbusters (other goodies are "Men In Black" and "Contact"), and the opening sequence, including Jerry's rambling, very classy. After that, the movie is a rollercoaster ride that leaves you feeling nauseous at the end. We have two people who very inexplicably fall in love, a plot that's more convoluted than "Mission: Impossible" (or tell me if I'm just stupid), and a whole lot of stupid government agents. I swear, this movie is sending a lot of mixed messages, and as a result, I find it very hard to review. It's a pretty funny movie, actually, and Jerry makes a nice interesting character--we can laugh at his paranoia, but at the very center of us isn't there something that's very similar? Mel Gibson gives a stunning (and sometimes too painfully realistic) performance as the tortured soul, and Julia Roberts is, as usual, her charming self that works very well in movies (and that's why she's a star!). Patrick Stewart, however, isn't too overwhelming, considering everyone seems to think he does a good job as Captain Picard (Hey! I actually remembered the name! Never watched Star Trek, never will ... Hey, no offense to Trekkies).

I guess what bugs me most about the movie is too unrealistic--and if I think that, it's pretty unrealistic. You see, I'm pretty much a Mulder person, and I sometimes wonder at the government's intentions. But Jerry--he's beyond paranoid, he's pretty much a lunatic (and the movie explains that as well). His theories are fun to listen to, but when Stewart's Dr. Jonas and the whole government "spook" people come along, things just start getting hectic. One minute the movie is whimsical and funny, the next it's dramatically unsettling--some images that Jerry have (and the whole extended torture scene) are just too disturbing (or it because I got into an R rated movie when I was not supposed to? Shhh, don't tell...), and they make you wanna look at your watch. The last part of the movie felt like a snake dragging toward its death in segments. (I do, however, love the ending--it felt very much like the X-Files season finale.) One minute it's a comedy, then it's a love story, then it's a drama, then it's action (I tell ya, the action scenes aren't too exciting), and then it decides to be one of those "Shine"-like films that bare all. And it never ceases to amaze me how movie makeup people don't realize that people just DON'T look that good after they've been beaten up and thrown down a flight of stairs. Sheesh, at least leave some bruises! No matter where they go or what they do, Jerry and Alice don't seem to have motives and they always seem to have what they need (guns, cars) at the right time. It's just too damn coincidental, if you ask me. They exist to make the movie progress towards its intentional ending--that's why I feel the plot is too contrived, it was as if somebody started typing up a story, suddenly decided to make it end the way it did, and started filling in the blanks. To quote somebody in the recent Entertainment Weekly article about the movie, the premise would have made a good tv series (I think Richard Donner said that). The plot twists, and then it turns, and then it twists, and then it turns again. Okay, but I think I've said enough about that, point made.

At any rate, I actually feel sorry for the moviemakers. It's obvious that they value this project very much (whoa, look at how much time they spent on Jerry's apartment and the painting on the wall--now that's a piece of art--only to blow it all up), but frankly the movie just doesn't have the magic touch. It's competent, pretty entertaining, but it could have been more special. You feel for the characters, but they are too many questions unanswered.

"The truth will set you free." -- Major, major X-Files ripoff there (sorry, but as an X-Phile, I'm naturally sensitive and biased about the word "truth").

Rating: C+ (First viewing, 8/8/97)

*Quick, somebody answer me, was that Richard Gere I saw hailing Jerry's cab earlier in the movie??

*Gotta love that song that I don't know the name of: "I need you baby, and if it's quite alright..." The new version of it played at the end of the movie by Lauryn Hill of the Fugees was also pretty good. It probably ranks third place in the Summer Movie Songs: the first being Will Smith's "Men In Black" and the second being Coolio's "C U When You Get There" (from "Nothing to Lose"). :)

Rating: B (Second viewing, 4/10/98)

Wow. What a second viewing can do to a movie. Perhaps it's all those positive comments I have been getting from friends. Perhaps it's because this time I around I knew what to expect (look how surprised I sounded in my original review, LOL), and during the whole movie I was more able to ignore the bad parts and look forward to the truly beautiful parts of the movie. Stripped away of the confusion I encountered during my first viewing, this time I could really appreciate the movie's dark humor and romance, a lot of which I missed the first time around. Stuff like Mel Gibsons's "horsing around" allusion to Holden Caulfield. Jerry Fletcher's paraphrenilia. Gibson's subtle portrayal of Fletcher. Don't get me wrong - whatever faults the movie had still remain; but it was a lot easier to swallow this time, and I have to say I enjoyed it a lot more. The film's eccentricity and complexity got me the first time; but this time I was able to single out its outstanding qualities.

*This is one of those few movies that I actually like better the second time around!