Review: The Moth Diaries
PLOT: Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) returns to boarding school after her summer holidays, and is thrilled to be reunited with her best friend Lucie (Sarah Gadon). She’s less thrilled when Lucie strikes up a deep friendship with a mysterious new student, Ernessa (Lily Cole)- who seems to be somehow feeding off Lucie, who, as the relationship gets deeper and deeper, gets ill. Now it’s up to Rebecca to prove Ernessa’s true nature, and save her friend’s life.
REVIEW: THE MOTH DIARIES is a film that had potential, but remains frustratingly inert for the entirety of its eighty-five minute running time. The latest from Mary Harron, who did the best ever Bret Easton Ellis adaptation with AMERICAN PSYCHO, and also directed THE NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE, THE MOTH DIARIES is frustrating as the ingredients are all there for an interesting film.
An adaptation of a popular novel, Harron seems to be trying to inject a little art-house flair into what’s essentially another vampire tale. As such, we’re never really sure if Ernessa’s a vamp, feeding off Lucie, or if it’s all in Rebecca’s head- as she’s established early on as being a somewhat unreliable POV character. Her father, a famous poet, committed suicide, and she seems to share a lot of his self-destructive tendencies, from self-mutilation to an overbearing relationship with Lucie. While Ernessa might be a literal vampire, Rebecca’s a figurative one, with her constantly using Lucie as her own personal cure for all her mental turmoil.
That said- Rebecca’s still a likable heroine, thanks to a dynamic performance from Sarah Bolger. IN AMERICAN fans will be chastened to learn that she was one of the little girls in that film, but she’s grown into a beautiful young woman. Her burgeoning sexuality is of key importance here, as not only does she have an inappropriate admirer in a touchy-feely professor (Scott Speedman in a two-dimensional role), but we also get the idea that Lucie is more than a friend, with them taking baths together and such. Rebecca only really goes over the edge when she catches Lucie having sex with Ernestine, and it’s possible that the events that follow might be colored by Rebecca’s own mental issues- leading to a conclusion that’s not a cut and dried as you’d think.
Sounds pretty good right? Well, it could have been, but there are a lot of places where THE MOTH DIARIES is a letdown. For one thing, despite coming from such a talented director, THE MOTH DIARIES seems awfully TV-movie ish, with the mise-en-scene, visuals, and music all being pretty by the numbers and unexciting. Only one scene has any real flair- which is a dream sequence involving a storm of blood that, while visually stunning, sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise bland film.
I also took issue with Lily Cole’s performance, which struck me as too overtly strange, as it might have been more interesting if she had been portrayed more normal. Then we would have really questioned our heroine’s sanity- but she plays it so strangely, that it’s amazing that nobody else can figure out that Ernestine isn’t quite normal.
So, while THE MOTH DIARIES is not a bad film, and has several things going for it, it stops way short of being the film it could have been. As it stands, it’s an interesting late night watch on cable, but not much more than that.