Here's the thing: would a movie like THE USUAL SUSPECTS work successfully as a mystery IF the audience knew who Keyser Soze was from the beginning as opposed to the ending? Would THE SIXTH SENSE have been as captivating if, half-way through, Bruce Willis confessed to the audience that he was a ghost? Or, for that matter, would Darth Vader's big reveal - "No, Luke, I am your father!" - have been as effective a surprise if the Sith Lord told you during THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK's opening crawl?
Of course, the answer is `no' to all of the above (unless you're a sadist), and therein lies a problem unique to this form of storytelling: when can a storyteller effectively reveal a film's big secret in order to achieve the greatest payoff for the audience? That said, THE DOUBLE HOUR gambles with its narrative structure - pulling the rug out from under the viewers when either they least expected it or were already peeking past the curtains on their own - and I found the results a bit mixed.
Sonia (played by Ksenia Rappoport) works as a chambermaid for an expensive hotel in Turin. At a speed-dating event, she meets Guido (Filippo Timi). The two strike up a romantic relationship, but, on a romantic weekend away from the city, something goes horribly wrong, leaving Sonia's memory fractured, but she's desperate to put back the pieces of her missing recollections in order to unravel what really happened the day her new lover died.
THE DOUBLE HOUR is one of those rare films that's difficult to review to any great length without spoiling some element of it. Suffice it to say, the film - like so many mysteries of this type - has a "big reveal," and how this revelation is handled genuinely `makes' or `breaks' any picture. It's clever - not too clever - but, if you're watching close, I think it's a rather easy find. Maybe too easy, though that's not the issue I had with the film. In fact, the problem I had was WHEN they gave it. In short, once you know - as an audience - you've been had, then why accept anything or everything following the reveal at face value? You can't - or, at least, I know I can't. Once the filmmakers have already displayed their preference for trickery, how can I accept whatever they tell me next as honest once I know definitively that they've engaged in obvious deceit?
To be fair, others found THE DOUBLE HOUR much more convincing than I did. The film won `Best Actress,' `Best Actor,' and `Best Italian Film' at the Venice International Film Festival. I'd never argue that Ms. Rappoport and Mr. Timli didn't rise to the challenge here - in fact, Timli's work as the flawed and distraught lover was exceptional. Together and independently, they create some nice moments of desperation and tenderness. Rather, my problems evolved from the script. I was never genuinely `convinced' of the mystery, and, when the reveal came when it did, I thought the timing was all wrong. It didn't destroy my experience with the film, but it definitely diminished it.
The film comes from Samuel Goldwyn Films along with participation from Flatiron Film Company, indigofilm, Medusa Film, and several others. It's stateside distribution is handled through New Video. The disc is very well produced - images are crisp with plenty of detail, and sound plays a very key role consistently throughout the picture (so listen closely!). The special features are slim - there's only a brief behind-the-scenes featurette and some deleted scenes (nothing much is added, so they were better excised). The picture is spoken Italian with English subtitles.
RECOMMENDED. It's definitely worth seeing, despite what I saw as obvious drawbacks. Like the packaging says, there's "a romance, a robbery, a mystery," though not in equal parts measure. THE DOUBLE HOUR is the kind of experience you may want to visit one more time - only to see what you may've missed the first time through - though I'll admit that I was never really pulled into the narrative's web of deceit. I think the script dabbled too closely with what was hidden behind-the-curtain, and I think it managed (or mismanaged) its "big reveal" way too soon, leaving me as a viewer to question anything (and everything) that came after that moment.
In the interests of fairness, I'm pleased to disclose that the fine folks at New Video provided me with a DVD screener copy of THE DOUBLE HOUR for the expressed purposes of completing this review.