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on November 14, 2009
As it appears, this movie is slammed and praised for the same reason, the personality of the characters and the story. For anyone looking to view this movie be forewarned, this is for certain audiences. If your looking to watch a movie featuring a superficial, generic plot; characters with generic personalities; then this is not the movie for you. It might actually be better if you look into skimming the book it's based on first, then deciding if the movie is something you'd want to take the time to watch.

The story is dark and at most times twisted. The characters are not likable, their not supposed to be; they are from what could be called the "alleyway" of society. Yes they're rich, but they're also psychologically damaged beyond repair. Their actions are horrid, and their personalities are even worse. Just because the characters are not honorable, generous, or even understandable, doesn't make the movie bad. People like this do actually exist, its just that most of us would greatly try to avoid them. The actors in this movie were excellent. I think Moore did a great job portraying the damaged wife and mother. If your looking to watch something out of the norm, go ahead and give this a try.

Just be warned that this movie is truly, out of the norm.
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I don't think I can look at my Bakelite steak knives the same way again, even though the filmmakers don't show a single piece of Bakelite in this 2008 movie. The subject, however, is Barbara Daly Baekeland, the wealthy wife of Brooks Baekeland, grandson of Leo Baekeland, founder of Bakelite plastic. It only becomes pertinent when you realize her son Antony is the heir to a major plastics company. Directed by Tom Kalin, a leader in the New Queer Cinema movement, the time-spanning story focuses on the unhealthy co-dependence that seems to have developed since birth between mother and son, a relationship that takes an unsavory turn toward incest and ultimately murder.

Howard A. Rodman's screenplay covers over a quarter-century of the characters' lives beginning in 1946 when a vivacious Barbara dotes on her baby Antony even as she gallivants amid the Manhattan social scene. The story quickly flashes forward to Paris when a precocious, 14-year-old Antony remains devoted to his mother even when she embarrasses him by forcing him to read a passage from de Sade's Justine in front of a small gathering of pretentious socialites. Another seven years pass, and a sexually awakened Antony takes up with a young, pot-smoking Spaniard named Jake, while Barbara has been deserted by her husband Brooks for a younger woman who once bedded Antony. As with many women of her standing, Barbara becomes involved with a gay "walker", Sam, who becomes Barbara's erudite escort. More transgressions occur until we catch up with mother and son living together in London in 1972. The Oedipal machinations come into fruition there leading to the tragic conclusion.

The movie is really an extended exercise in self-loathing spotlighting truly unlikable characters, chief among them the grasping Barbara and the psychologically damaged Antony. The stilted dialogue doesn't help much either. You walk away understanding what would drive Antony to schizophrenia but are given little reason to care what happens. No stranger to mid-century roles (Far from Heaven,The Hours), Julianne Moore is one of our most accomplished actresses, and she manages to etch a powerful portrait of a deeply disturbed and irredeemable woman despite the odds. However, Kalin leaves her stranded in a role that elicits no sympathy. The same fate befalls Eddie Redmayne (The Other Boleyn Girl) as the grown Antony, and his performance becomes a series of limp-wristed mannerisms that remind me a bit of Cillian Murphy's work in Breakfast on Pluto. Stephen Dillane hardly makes an impression as Brooks, but Hugh Dancy (Evening,The Jane Austen Book Club) certainly makes a more convincing "walker" than Woody Harrelson did in The Walker. Except for the always watchable Moore, I say skip it.
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SAVING GRACE is screenwriter Howard A. Rodman's adaptation of Natalie Robins and Steven M.L. Aronson's brutally realistic book by the same name of a famous wealthy family's downfall. Director Tom Kalin has previously proved that he can successfully mix biopic with drama ('Swoon'), but alas in this tedious film he fails to make the audience care about any of his characters, despite the fact that he cast this strange collection of edgy types with outstanding actors. In the end, after witnessing an incestuous relationship between mother and son and a subsequent brutal murder, the only moment of tenderness is a very lost boy's need to recover the collar of his childhood dog, long dead but hardly forgotten in the murky soup that has been his life.

Knowing that the story is true adds a bit of intrigue: the family of a plastics mogul is in the third generation: Brooks Baeklande (Stephen Dillane) wallows in his wealth without positively contributing to his family reputation; his wife Barbara (Julianne Moore), a former actress and Feline's salesgirl who marries into wealth only to become obsessed with climbing a ladder that repeatedly betrays her 'class'; their only son Antony (Eddie Redmayne) who moves from his mother's worshipped idol to his father's loathed rival at his being bisexual/gay to a series of affairs - none of which he finds satisfying or fulfilling, especially his ultimate incestuous relationship with his mother. The film runs from 1946 (Antony's birth) to 1972 and the tragic finale and during this time the audience is conducted through the superficial corridors of life among the wealthy and influential people of New York, Paris, London, Cadaques. Along the way we meet some interesting characters, paramours of Antony played by Elena Anaya, the gifted actors Unax Ugalde and Hugh Dancy, and a host of other bit parts who enliven the action or act as stimuli for the crumbling downfall of Barbara Baekeland.

The various periods of time are well captured by cinematographer Juan Miguel Azpiroz who manages to give us the 'superficial beauty' of these empty souls while keeping a safe distance from their degrading antics. The musical score by Fernando Velázquez is always too loud and falls between the cracks of elevator Muzak and takeoffs on Wagner's leitmotifs from 'Tristan und Isolde'.

The major problem with this film is that it is nearly impossible for us to emotionally invest in any of the characters, even as well defined as they are in the hands of such excellent actors. It is this distance that sinks the film, a 'biopic' about rather distasteful folks that offers little insight into the positive aspects of their deranged behavior. Or perhaps that void is what Tom Kalin is striving to depict. It just misses. Grady Harp, June 08
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on June 26, 2014
Its going to be a bumpy ride. Savage in a pretty could verb. I could think of a few others. I liked the genera of the film. Julianne is superb in this role. She must have had to take showers for years to get rid of the "icky" feeling she must have had making the film. Like a tragic accident, you cant help but watch.
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on January 8, 2016
This is an interesting story but seemed to be made in a cheesy way from the technical standpoint. Music was way too loud; overshadowed the actors and scenes. There appears to be some debate about whether some scenes were true; but the overall story is true and interesting. The bottom line is that this was one rich, dysfunctional family that got more dysfunctional over time.
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on February 8, 2014
I would give this film a d grade. It's barely watchable. Not much good to say my review is simple save your time and money. If I was at the movie theatre I would have walked out after a few scenes. Horrible piece of filmmaking.
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on September 6, 2014
Incestuous folie a deux- not the feel-good movie of the year... the ending reminded me of "Sid & Nancy" in that it conveyed claustrophobic dysfunction and sickness a little too well. Two people glued together by intertwined pathology that feels like love to them and they're shut into their own world. Makes you feel icky,then makes you grateful for normality, even when it's dull. There's one scene where you wonder "are they going to play out this whole incident in real time? Do I really need to see all this?" But then you realize that it puts the viewer right in the mode and feeling of their sickness and is very effective.

You have to really be curious about dark psychology and the dysfunction of the ultra-rich to watch this film. Since I am, I found this riveting, but I think most people will find it stomach-turning and pointless if you're not interested in true crime. This motivated me to get the book; if you're the type fascinated by Truman Capote and his circle of "swans", you will want to as well. It's like Gatsby on heroin or something... good, but gnarly and not exactly life-affirming.

Moore is amazing; and the real Barbara Baeklund was a striking redhead, too, so it works visually also. There are some odd bits of acting, which may or may not be accurate, by various characters. Perhaps these "cafe Society" types were this stilted and contrived, it's plausible. Hard to judge...

This is a memorable depiction of a surreal family tragedy. Now that I'm reading the book, I'd say they condensed it well, certain details are altered,yet it's true in spirit to the story. I recommend this with the above cautions for the right audience.
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VINE VOICEon December 28, 2008
"Savage Grace" is the true story of Barbara Daly (Julianne Moore), a would-be actress, artist, and social climber who, in postwar New York, married wealthy Brooks Baekeland, heir to the Bakelite fortune. Her drinking, making scenes in public, and adulterous flings made the marriage a living nightmare. She was a smothering mother to her gay son, Tony, and the family lived a dysfunctional love triangle that ended in violence and bloodshed.
This is Moore's film all the way. She conveys a sense of inferiority percolating within, since Barbara did marry well above her social station. She needs constant reassurance that she is loved, and craves social acceptance like a drug. Moore makes a rather unpleasant character interesting. Maybe it's the voyeur effect. We feel we're peeking into a privileged world, seeing all its frayed corners and cracks in close-up. And we're fascinated because it's exotic. Stephen Dillane portrays Brooks and Eddie Redmayne is young Tony. Special Features include a making-of featurette and a mini-documentary on the actual story that inspired the movie.
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on April 11, 2014
A sexually abusive mom walks the seductive tight wire with her son's time of puberty to young manhood. She helps him makes sexual conquests, and jump starts his bisexuality to royally confuse the son as to which route he's going to take. She could have left well enough alone and let him choose his likely sexual preference, homosexuality. But, she hell-bent to help him stay part-heterosexual as well using seductive skills, which breeds impairment of his emotional development and maturity. It would be enough to transform any sexually developing male into lunacy and sexual deviancy.

To top it off, she sexually seduces him one to many times to trigger murder by insanity,
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on April 29, 2014
I gave this 4 stars because I believe Julianne Moore's performance was her best and deserves 5 stars and beyond! The other performances were at least 4 stars and up! The subject matter of incest on the other hand for me was disturbing. I think the scene between Julianne and her son in London was distasteful and did not need to be so graphic. But that's me. I would normally knock off a couple of more stars because of this scene and my conscious, but my conscious also tells me that the director's choice should not detract from Julianne's and the other actor's performances. So Julianne's performance, 5 PLUS STARS, the director's choices, NO STARS.
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