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Culture Reviews
Hide and Seek /By J.Polson/
Tchaikovsky Cultural Center 
By Ryan Macalino
There have been many times when viewers are totally immersed in a story, awaiting each following scene with eager anticipation, until a certain turning point and we are left scratching our heads and wondering what just happened. “Hide and Seek” has such a story, one that has its third act betraying all that was brilliant in its first two.

After a short beginning in New York City, most of the action in the movie takes place in cottage country, far from civilization and thus closer to the setting that most thrillers and horror movies are placed in. Recently widowed psychologist Dr. David Calloway (Robert De Niro) moves to an upstate summer community, to find respite for himself and his traumatized daughter Emily (Dakota Fanning). This is against the advice of colleague Dr. Katherine Carson (Famke Janssen), but David’s decision as Emily’s father and Katherine’s mentor is enough for her to relent. He feels that his desire to live life anew with his daughter, away from the city, is the best course of action for them to deal with their tragic loss.

There is an immediately threatening atmosphere as soon as the Calloways reach their new property, also helped by the many disturbing characters that they come in contact with. Everyone from the sheriff (Dylan Baker) to their next-door neighbors seem to display an uncanny interest in Emily, and once the weird and scary occurrences start happening, it’s not too long before David becomes suspicious of everyone in the small town. Fortunately for David, he finds a kindred spirit in Elizabeth Young (Elizabeth Shue), a recent divorcee.

“Hide and Seek” begins much like a Hitchcock thriller, moving at a deliberate pace and focused squarely on the character interactions. The visual cues and feelings of eerie suspense are brought about the old-fashioned way, without cheap thrills or clich?d tricks. Director John Polson does a good job of maintaining the ominous undercurrent throughout most of the movie, at first hinting at the supernatural, and then later making it more terrifying with an ‘it could happen to anyone’ type of realism.

The performances are outstanding throughout, from the supporting characters all the way to the top-billed actors, namely with Robert De Niro and Dakota Fanning. De Niro is sharp, once again working against type and proving his range. He seems quite comfortable in slipping into the more mainstream roles as he ages, much like Paul Newman in the 90’s. His acting as a grieving widower trying to salvage communication with his daughter is believable and tender. In addition, he also handles the surprise sequences very well near the end of the movie.

Much acting praise also goes to the youngster Fanning, who has now officially and quite deftly stolen scenes from yet another cinematic legend. In the many shared moments with De Niro, her wide expressive eyes and subtle demeanor speaks of talent that betrays her youthful appearance. There is much talk stateside about her rumored drug habit, with the unavoidable over-attention due to her age. In this movie however, her appearance as a malnourished insomniac only adds to the role, be it from a crack addiction or the skilled hand of an experienced makeup artist.

Despite the many positives, there is one glaring flaw in this movie that should have been remedied before production. If anything, the composition of this movie resembles more that of a psychological thriller than anything else, but then the producers take a decided turn against this in the last 30 minutes of the movie – moving more into the territory of a formulaic slasher flick. Ari Schlossberg’s script begins taut and controlled, like Shyamalan without too much reliance on the supernatural. However, with the last act, we end up with a movie that resembles “The Shining”, but lacking any adrenaline or payoff at the very end. A comparable neo-Hitchcock thriller would be “What Lies Beneath”, but where that movie (barely) succeeded, this movie falls flat.

The movie is still a good watch, especially in the first hour or so. The potential for this movie to be an excellent thriller much in the vein of M. Night Shyamalan was definitely there, but I’m sure most viewers would have handled the last act quite differently if given the power to rewrite. I understand that Shyamalan’s style has become a trademark in itself, but in the efforts of the filmmakers to offer something unique, they sacrificed their potential to come up with something big. As effective the movie was in the first two acts, the thrills were well hidden in the end.

10.02.05
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