Personal Effects David Hollander

Personal Effects David Hollander
When a feature film starring Ashton Kutcher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Kathy Bates finds itself relegated directly to DVD bargain bins with absolutely no publicity it seems a safe bet that the crap factor is high. But the question is how high and what type of crap? Well, the big problem with Personal Effects is not that it's particularly bad — it has its strong points — but more that nothing about it is particularly good, or even very interesting. Walter (Ashton Kutcher) plays a rising star in the NCAA wrestling circuit that walks away when his twin sister is brutally raped and murdered. He comes home to stand by his mother (Kathy Bates) and niece while closely monitoring the trial against the suspected perpetrator. When not at work — in a chicken costume, no less — Walter strikes up affections with Linda (Michelle Pfeiffer), a widow who shares similar pangs of loss, spending equal amounts of time at the courthouse awaiting the conviction of her husband's killer. With disconnected characters struggling for meaning within chaos and feeling isolated and still while waiting for some sort of closure or action, the film could have been moving, but a ham-fisted handling of the material and a peculiar, ineffective performance from Kutcher leave the film flailing from the get-go. Hollander's direction goes for the on-the-nose blue-grey colour scheme often associated with mourning and relies on stylization and close-ups at times when there is nothing for the audience to reflect on. Simultaneously, when a moment of truth stumbles along, Hollander cuts away and handles it with a coldness that quashes intensity before it can happen. It's awkward and screams inexperience. On the upside, Bates, as always, has some fantastic scenes. The DVD includes only a brief "making of" that features film clips that run far too long, along with some brief interviews. Kutcher points out that he and his character have much in common, which we already know. (E1)