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Film Review: "Passion" is a remake that should not have been made

August 30, 2013|By Andy Klein
  • Rachel McAdams stars as "Christine" and Noomi Rapace stars as "Isabelle" in the upcoming release of Entertainment One's "Passion."
Rachel McAdams stars as "Christine" and Noomi… (Courtesy of SBS…)

Brian De Palma has had a long and checkered career and his new “Passion” ranks somewhere in the middle of that checkerboard — better than “Raising Cain” and well below “The Untouchables.” “Passion” is a remake of the 2010 French film “Love Crime” (“Crime d'amour”), the last work of the French director Alain Corneau, who version holds it edge.

Isabelle (Noomi Rapace) is an assistant to ad agency bigwig Christine (Rachel McAdams). The disparity in position is pretty vast for two women of roughly the same age — somewhere in the 30s — and it's pretty obvious why. Isabelle is a bit of a mouse: She doesn't blow her own horn; she's creative but sensitive, maybe even shy. Christine is all brass: She steadily blows her own horn, even stealing some solos from her minions; her only sensitivity is to threats to her power and her only creativity concerns how to eradicate those threats.

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She is, at a minimum, a complete sociopath. Notions like ethics and guilt would probably make her laugh — unless there was someone present she was trying to impress. Efficacy is the only standard she seems to know. She steals the work of others; she schemes, and she even manipulates the office romances.

The only behavior she exhibits beyond her ruthless careerism is sadism. It's not enough to knock down her opponents; better yet is to humiliate them in public at the same time. She is, in a phrase, a real piece of work.

Her sexual desire may be genuine, but we sense that she exploits it more for power than for libido satisfaction. The film's opening scene — the two women laughing together as “friends” — has a barely hidden sexual tension. Isabelle is profoundly uncomfortable with Christine's unspoken advances — as well as with those from her own assistant (Karoline Herfurth). She is less uncomfortable when Christine pushes her into a relationship with a male business associate (Paul Anderson), who either is, or was, one of Christine's lovers.

Much of the story can't be discussed without spoilers, so let's just say that a murder is committed, possibly by one of the above, and there are clever plot reversals.

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