Published Oct 01, 2005Jonathan Safran Foer's beloved 2001 memoir, Everything is Illuminated, gets the film adaptation treatment with actor Liev Schreiber's directorial debut. Schreiber, notable for his work on Broadway and in the Scream films, could have easily found a simpler task for his first foray into Clint Eastwood/Mel Gibson territory.
Illuminated is a rich narrative about a young man's journey to Europe to find the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis full of challenging page-to-film possibilities. And while Schreiber certainly is flawed in his attempt, it has to be acknowledged that he has the attributes of a talented writer/director and that the film is certainly respectable.
Elijah Wood (working hard to become known as something other than a hobbit) plays Jonathan, an oddity of man who hires Alex (a scene-stealing Eugene Hutz) and his grandfather (Boris Leskin) to assist him on his journey through the Ukraine to find his own grandfather's mysterious saviour. Their journey becomes a comical road trip of sorts, leading toward Jonathan's greater understanding of his heritage.
Schreiber retains most of the wit and quirkiness of the book, and strains himself to find cinematic methods to illuminate the words. The cinematography is often exaggerated and quite creative, and the editing tries to keep up with the speed of the dialogue. Yet it remains that with inexperience often comes a tendency towards style over substance and the film sloppily mixes its comic and dramatic tones, often bringing forth a sense of discomfort with what is occurring on screen.
In the end, despite Schreiber's efforts, the audience becomes anything but illuminated. (Warner Independent Pictures)