Published Sep 01, 2005There are many ways to annoy an atheist film critic. The first is to introduce a priest (Tom Wilkinson) who's on trial for a deadly botched exorcism and not play him as a heavy. The second is to introduce an agnostic lawyer (Laura Linney) whose sole purpose is to have her anti-faith shaken and to endure wholly unimpressive "attacks" that will lead her into the light. The third is to offer a prosecutor (Campbell Scott) who's so smug and supercilious that his perfectly rational explanations can't seem like anything other than the work of a blue meanie.
But The Exorcism of Emily Rose doesn't stop there. Care has been taken to be as shamelessly manipulative as possible: it offers truncated explications of opposing arguments only after it's launched into massive flashbacks on its own behalf, and everyone who might cross the high and the mighty is a shifty-eyed gremlin with an obvious hidden agenda.
To give the devil his due, the manipulations are quite competent, with some pretty slick editing and an effective musical score helping to creep you out in spite of yourself. But if you're not a red-stater looking for divine excuses and you resent being played like a grand piano, you'll glower at the screen and curse yourself for being fool enough to accept the assignment.
By the way, the fourth annoyance is taking a true story about a genuine tragedy and using its victim as collateral damage in a PR campaign for the spirit world. No matter how you slice it, the film glorifies the unnecessary death of an innocent young woman, which is something believers and heretics alike should identify as despicable. (Sony)