Rental Regrets: A Brief Character Review of 2006’s, The Illusionist

But why, Edward Norton?

What happened to the days of the lovable Skin-Head, Swastika inked Ed?
Or…even better, the year (2002 to be exact) that the dopey, twisted rhino, Smoochy, won us over with his sweet naivity and love for ice dancing?

Those were characters.

I like characters.

Norton plays Eisenheim, an Austrian Illusionist who stirs up controversy as a performer in turn of the century Vienna, all while attempting to win the love of his life back.
Some might agree that this could be a decent foundation on which to begin a story.
I did.
The opening scene has alot of potential. Norton walks out on to the theatre stage like someone broken, beaten, almost tortured. You can see the turmoil on his face and in his eyes… these are the marks of a character with dimension.

This is where I begin to get excited. I say to myself, “Here he comes, I knew he wouldn’t let me down,” but sadly, so sadly, he does.

A Sundance Festival premiere and Academy Award nominee-mind you, The Illustionist touches on the following themes:
love, beauty, politics, corruption, and more importantly, the sometimes blurred line between reality and illusion.

Sounds rich right?
Stop right there.

I’ve always been an Edward Norton enthusiast, but this role really made me think…who is this person?

Was he angry because his tastefully executed, yet completely hokey, Disney-like sex scene with Jessica Biel was edited?

Don’t blame us because you had to star opposite a J-Lo wannabe.
I mean her complete lack of presence in the movie was enough to make anyone wonder if perhaps she was meant to be part of the backdrop.
She shur is perty.
He was confused, that’s it.

Maybe he just became frustrated with himself because he couldn’t handle the fact that his German accent was muddled and sounded remarkably like a common British one…
I know I was in pain over that one.

Or maybe, just maybe, Paul Giamatti is the better actor here?
Did I just say that?

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Giamatti was a delight to watch, as usual.
Yes, the quirky star of Sideways proves that he can deliver a serious, rich supporting role in a drama; and his delivery is so smooth.

This movie- yes i will call it a movie because I like to reserve the word “Film” for works that actually intrigue me- suffers from severe lead actor character flaws and is one that might best be enjoyed by pressing the mute button.


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