Film Review – The 9th Life of Louis Drax
The 9th Life of Louis Drax
One of the best things about film writing is discovery. Every once in awhile, I watch a film with little or no information beforehand and find something amazing/delightful/heartbreaking/wonderful up on the screen. The worst thing about writing about film is when you go to a screening and what you see is horrible, but you can’t leave because it’s understood you will watch the whole thing. And then you are obligated to write about it because that is what you have agreed to with your editor and the people who have invited you to see the film. There is no pretending it didn’t happen, even though that’s what you so desperately want. Alexandre Aja’s new film The 9th Life of Louis Drax, is so bad that I am having to bribe myself to write this review. If I get the first draft done today, I will get a bag of chocolate covered almonds and some other stuff you don’t need to know about. In short: this movie is not good. Listen, making any kind of art is hard. I have an art degree; I get it. And honestly, it feels like a miracle that a non-series movie can even get made nowadays. But sometimes things just don’t work out as well as planned, and I have to sit in a dark theater for 108 minutes wishing I could figure out how to build a time machine, build that time machine, and then go back in time and miss my bus downtown for the screening.
The 9th Life of Louis Drax, is about 9 year-old Louis Drax (Aiden Longworth) who has led a very accident-prone life, starting with an emergency c-section at birth. He’s stopped breathing, suffered broken bones, had multiple episodes of food poisoning, and a light fixture fell on his crib when he was a baby. On his 9th birthday he is pushed off a steep cliff into the ocean and is determined to be dead, only to start breathing again in the morgue. He is taken to a pediatric coma care unit headed up by Dr. Allan Pascal (Jamie Dornan), who tries to ferret out the real story regarding the fall. Louis’ mother Natalie (Sarah Gadon) maintains it was his father (Aaron Paul) who pushed him, and since he has gone missing, there is no reason to believe otherwise. As Dr. Pascal grows closer to Natalie, strange things start to happen and he begins to believe that Louis is trying to psychically contact him from his coma. But what exactly is Louis trying to tell him?
Why do I think this movie is bad? Sooooooo many reasons.
1) There are three different stories going on here, and none of them mesh well tonally. The first is a nasty little mystery that would have made a pretty decent 1940s film noir. The second is what happens in Louis mind while he’s in a coma, which is done in the style of a children’s movie complete with whimsical music and effects. The third consists of flashbacks to the Drax’s family life before the fall, mostly focusing on parental arguments and Louis’ trips to his therapist Dr. Perez (Oliver Platt). It was completely jarring to have to keep moving between Louis’ precocious narration and the darkness of the mystery. Occasionally, the child’s-movie-style music would leak into the noir film, and it would completely conflict with seriousness of what was going on.
2) Louis is phenomenally annoying. Aiden Longworth seems very talented, but he’s not given much here to work with. Everybody keeps referring to Louis as smart and engaging. But he’s awful. I was a really weird kid, and believe me I have sympathy for the outcasts and freaks of the world, but Louis is rude, oblivious to the feelings of others, and led to believe he is smarter than everyone around him. He’s in a coma, AND HE STILL WILL NOT SHUT THE HELL UP.
3) There is a scene where his mother is bringing a pet to visit him in the coma ward, and the camera spends a not inconsiderable time focused on her swaying butt in a clingy knit dress. This is fairly typical for how the camera frames Natalie as an ethereally beautiful object. She is a thing to be looked at, not known, and we never do.
4) I adore Oliver Platt, and it pains me to watch him speak such horrible dialogue. And believe me, there is a lot of it in this film.
5) The gender politics of this film are crappy. I can’t really talk about it or I will spoil stuff, and while I hate this film, other people won’t and I don’t want to ruin it for them. Also, the film is super White.
6) The psychic stuff in this film is really dumb, and the mystery could have been solved without it.
7) Honestly, I just found this film to be disjointed, unpleasant, and painfully silly. If I thought this was just a lame-o cash grab film, my review would have been much more snarky than it is. Nothing worked for me, and I found it painful to watch.