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"Young Adam"

Directed by David Mackenzie.
Written by David Mackenzie.
Starring Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton, Peter Mullan and Emily Mortimer.
Release Year:  2003

Review Date:  5/10/04


I'll tell you what:  after seeing zero NC-17 films in the last 29 years in theaters, this year, I've seen two!

Two adult films!

This time around, it's "Young Adam", an import starring Ewan McGregor as Joe, a drifter that opens the film as the ship's mate of a barge owner (Tilda Swinton) and her husband (Peter Mullan).  One morning Joe and the barge's hubby discover a dead body floating face-down in the water, and over the course of the film we learn about the dead woman, who just happens to be Joe's former girlfriend Cathie (Emily Mortimer).

We also learn what it's like to see Tilda Swinton naked for most of the next 90 minutes.  And what it's like to see Ewan McGregor naked.  And Emily Mortimer naked.

And we learn, FINALLY!, what it's like to have sex in a whole mess of custard.

But, in between all of this sex (and, there are a bunch of sex scenes, at least a dozen), there is actually a good movie here.  I think much of this has to do with director David Mackenzie's use of such sparse dialogue, and by letting his actors give us almost everything emotional through their unspoken feelings, we get to connect with the Joe character, as written a man that is completely unattached with the world, but over the course of the film, we find some remorse in him due to his situation and how things ended in his relationship with Cathie.  Tying things back in with how he treats the barge owner (and a few other ladies over the course of the movie), we get quite a portrait of how the love-'em-and-leave-'em type that Joe is came to exist.

"Young Adam", though, does connect with its audience through its consistent use of sex as plot device, as Joe moves from host to host--I mean, come on, the guy is playing a predator--using his good looks and emotional nonchalance to get through to the next day, the next month, the next lay.  McGregor is so good here, using the boyish charms that are becoming a hallmark of his career (although not as over-the-top as he was in "Big Fish") with a fantastic use of his eyes to convey the sly confidence of a man that doesn't have much to say even if he DOES have a lot to do.  My friend Ross and I both agreed after the film that while Swinton is a phenomenal actress, we could have done with much less Swinton nudity, and in general, she is just very hard to look at and believe that anyone would want to regularly have sex with her.  This may sound awful to some of you, but really, there is a point in the film where I just sat there thinking

"Could I really come home to that?  Hell no!"

On the flipside, you almost don't get enough of Emily Mortimer naked...what were the producers thinking?  Some of these scenes get the heart racing, which is more than can be said about 98% of sex scenes in American films.  Either way, you can guarantee that coming to see this film will at least remind you that sex is good, and it's good for long as you're not regularly having sex with Tilda Swinton.

Good times, indeed.

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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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09