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Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra.
Written by David Johnson.

Starring Isabelle Fuhrman, Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard and CCH Pounder.
Release Year:  2009
Review Date:  7/22/09


The poster is right--there really IS something wrong with Esther!

"Orphan" is not a great film, in the artistic sense...but, it is a great ride, especially in a packed theater, with the volume turned up, and the air conditioning just a tad too cold.  Half an hour into this movie, you know something is kinda fucked up about the title role...and, while the surprise isn't really a hammer, it makes the first 90% of the movie a bit funnier.

Isabelle Fuhrman plays Esther, an orphan who is picked up by Kate and John Coleman (Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard) at an orphanage near their idyllic home in Connecticut.  It becomes apparent early on that not only is Esther a child prodigy--with prodigious talent in art and playing the piano--but she has a few mental issues as well, strange for a nine-year-old...and, those issues really ramp up by the middle of the film.  Almost everyone except for John seems to pick up on, is there a way to get Esther back to the orphanage?

To say more would give some things away, although the movie's trailer did a good job of that also.  "Orphan" does the right things right, though, and by that I mean it has all of the clichéd horror movie moments just so.  Sound for everything is ratcheted up, so that even opening the family refrigerator will generate shrieks from the audience.  As the film is rated R, when people die, they really, REALLY die.  For a film like this, there are a couple of good laughs, and even our ending fits right in the middle of good horror standards.  The film is made better by the acting of our three leads; I liked Fuhrman a lot, and Farmiga (from "Running Scared" and "The Departed") actually appears to be acting, and caring, strange but solid for a schlocky/cheap thrills horror film.

If you like your scares, see "Orphan"; especially on a Friday or Saturday night when there should be a crowd, I think the film is better with a big audience.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 07/22/09