Bug William Friedkin

Bug William Friedkin
After two hours of paranoid delusions, wanton self-mortification, spousal abuse and other gruesome indignities, I am no closer to understanding what Bug is supposed to be driving at than I suspect the filmmakers are, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Ashley Judd stars as a waitress named Agnes who lives in a grungy motel and nurses memories of her abducted son. Her life appears to take a turn for the better when she’s introduced to Peter (Michael Shannon), a shy Gulf War vet who talks of alienation and assuages her feelings of loneliness. But Peter also believes that he’s been the subject of military experiments, he’s a carrier for insects and that one Dr. Sweet (Bryan F. O’Byrne) is out to get him. And soon she’s sharing his maybe delusions, to the point of barricading herself in her room with her unhinged paramour.

Adapted by Tracy Letts from his own play, the film starts off as a study in ennui and melancholy that’s bolstered by William Friedkin’s highly cinematic direction — you feel like you’re in a motel with real lonely people instead of just watching a filmed play. Unfortunately, once Peter’s delusions take over thematic focus flies out the window and we’re subjected to grotesqueries and self-abuses that have no purpose beyond getting a rise out of us.

I was rather disappointed that the film didn’t go anywhere beyond a grandstanding morbidity. Still, boring the film is not and it could stand as a return to glory for the director of The Exorcist and The French Connection after a long time in the Hollywood wilderness. Not for the squeamish, but the strong-stomached might find something to like here (Maple)