p>The Final Cut is the latest project in Robin Williams’ ongoing effort to make us forget the sludgy family films that marked his career in the mid-’90s. A dark meditation on guilt and redemption, it’s set in a neo-Victorian near-future in which those who can afford it have their children implanted in the womb with a Zoë chip, a device that records their entire lives through their own eyes. At their deaths, the chips’ contents are edited into a “rememory” to be shown at a memorial service.
Williams plays Alan Hakman, a “cutter” who specializes in editing the lives that others in his profession can’t bear to watch. It’s his job to erase the unpleasant bits (such as an inconvenient rape or murder) and fashion a narrative that conforms to the view the family would like. As the film begins, a colleague has recommended him to the family of the recently deceased Charles Bannister, an executive at Eye Tech, the firm that sells the Zoë chips, whose secret life they’d like to remain concealed.
Standing in Alan’s way is a former cutter named John Fletcher (Jim Caviezel, last seen as Mel Gibson’s flayed Christ) who opposes the use of the implants and wants to use Bannister’s crimes to discredit Eye Tech. Since his retirement from cutting, Fletcher has aligned himself with the anti-Zoë movement, many members of which have covered their faces with complex Modern Primitive-style tattoos intended to disrupt the functioning of their chips. Another subplot features Mira Sorvino as Alan’s love interest, Delilah, who is herself obscurely connected to Alan’s work, and its undoing.
Alan’s motivations are established in the first scene, in which he is shown as a child of about eight years who is implicated in the accidental death of another boy. The subsequent forty-odd years of his life, we’re made to understand, have been haunted by his unrelenting guilt. Consequently, Alan is a closed-off, dispassionate little man, the kind of guy who sleeps beneath a throw on top of the bedspread rather than mussing his careful hospital corners. It’s the sort of role Williams usually plays in “serious” films; tamping down his manic comic energy always leaves him seeming enervated. We’ve seen him do it so many times in the last few years that it’s become predictable. The downward-cast gaze, the twitch at the corner of his mouth, the jerk of his chin, all the little mannerisms that signal a dramatic performance from Williams have become so very mannered that we long to see him break out and do something unexpected. He doesn’t, though, and the film doesn’t give us many other performances to watch.
While Williams’ performance is limited, the plot is anything but. It spreads out in widening arcs that never fully connect. Hakman is batted around like a badminton birdie from one plotline to another, but none of them develops into anything meaningful. The writer/director is Omar Naim, who has more visual tricks up his sleeve than narrative ones, but few of either. Visually, the film vacillates between satisfying connections (a figure moves from one surveillance camera screen to another and then to a window just beyond the second) to tiresomely old-fashioned claptrap (Williams floating in a sea of images from a Zoë reel). Naim hints at allegory (Hakman the cutter, Delilah the temptress who destroys her man’s source of strength, an editing table called a guillotine), but it never gels. At the end, you’re left with a vague sense that Naim thinks voyeurism is bad and seizing the day is good (now where have I heard that before?), but his themes never rise above that level of banality.
Jeremy C. Fox is a founding critic of Pajiba and a member of the Online Film Critics Society.You may email him at jeremycfox[at]gmail.com.
The Final Cut / Jeremy C. Fox
Film | May 12, 2006 | Comments ()