Published Sep 19, 2011It's not a compliment that while watching Mary Harron's latest ode to female empowerment, The Moth Diaries, I thought of both The Haunting of Molly Parker and The In Crowd. The comparisons to The In Crowd are obvious, given the similarities in lesbian subtext, smouldering glares, cheesy dialogue and atrocious acting.
But my rationale for bringing The Haunting of Molly Hartley into the mix has more do with the how the film feels like someone randomly cut out entire necessary sequences, cramming together scenes with no thought as to pacing or audience digestion.
Despite having in-film classroom discussions with Scott Speedman about how Bram Stoker's Dracula was an anxiety allegory for female sexuality getting out of control when will is ceded, The Moth Diaries isn't necessarily about vampires. It is, however, very much about nascent female sexuality, linking sex to death and lesbian urges, as young Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) gets her jealous on when the brainy, depressive new girl at her boarding school, Ernessa (Lily Cole), starts invading her territory by stealing her best friend/ersatz-lover, Lucie (Sarah Gadon).
From here, the story moves into Cassandra complex machinations, as Rebecca starts to notice some peculiarities about the new girl that no one else believes, even after teachers and students start dying in bizarre ways.
Knowing Mary Harron's resume, it's actually quite surprising that she flounders so desperately with this material. She's certainly capable of assessing the text in a highly cerebral capacity, comparing sexual desires to the death of will and ego, but never moves beyond this. In fact, beyond the didactic, which is literally spoken aloud in a classroom, everything about this movie is laughably inept.
Since there's absolutely no vision or aesthetic trajectory, the only thing holding the narrative together is the dialogue, which is rushed, with stationary photography, and never given any duality or resonance. Emotionally, there is nothing to connect to, since the assemblage is handled as coolly as the deliberately cold and satirical American Psycho.
This is problematic when the impetus relies on our identifying with Rebecca and her struggle, which is a moot point when scenes literally clang together with no connecting material or context. On occasion, character reactions and comments come from out nowhere, suggesting that large segments might have been cut in post-production, which would at least explain part of the issue.
If editing and behind the scenes conflicts weren't the source of a sloppy final product, than The Moth Diaries is surely just a wrongheaded, or lazy, mistake for all involved. It's too bad, since it actually could have been something fun and smart. (Alliance)