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Review: The 9th Life of Louis Drax

The 9th Life of Louis Drax
09.02.2016
4 10

PLOT: A doctor (Jamie Dornan) tries to help a young boy after he suffers a horrible fall that leaves him in a coma, but finds himself falling for the boy’s alluring mother (Sarah Gadon).

REVIEW: You gotta wonder who the audience is for THE 9TH LIFE OF LOUIS DRAX. Is it for kids? It certainly feels that way at times, with star Aiden Longworth (as Louis) getting the lion’s share of screen-time, and much of the film being devoted to his comatose fantasy life. But, at the same time, director Alexandre Aja has thrown-in enough F-bombs and sex that it seems like he’s trying to make a children’s fable for adults, maybe something like PAN’S LABYRINTH, but that’s a tall order. While Aja is a talented genre director, he struggles mightily with this oddball movie and had made a film that’s pretty much for no one at all when you get down to it.

It doesn’t help that the cast is very much a mixed bag. 50 SHADES OF GREY leading man Jamie Dornan feels badly miscast as Drax’s doctor. He lacks the compassion needed for the role, and doesn’t seem nearly intelligent enough to be a world-renowned physician, with a late-in-the-game twist where he has to channel Longworth’s precocious performance coming-off especially bad. It’s also tough to swallow that this veteran doctor would fall so easily for Louis’s mom, even if she does look like Sarah Gadon.

For one thing, it’s clear right from the start that she’s a red herring, with Aja going through great pains to make her into this kind of prototypical Hitchcock-blonde, shooting her as if they’re making a Brian De Palma movie, something which runs contrary to the fantasy aspect of the rest of the movie. Despite this, Gadon does well in the part and definitely has a kind of ethereal look about her, although the recent INDIGNATION is a better showcase for her unique presence.

Where LOUIS DRAX fares best is in the supporting parts, with Oliver Platt especially good as Louis’s psychiatrist, while Aaron Paul is extremely sympathetic as Louis’s trouble father, a one-time MMA fighter turned henpecked-husband. Barbara Hershey also has a nice bit as Paul’s seen-it-all mother. Yet, even the best actors struggle with some of the dialogue, which comes off as stiff and unnatural. Adapted from Liz Jensen’s novel by Max Minghella, some of the incidental dialogue comes off strangely, as if it was written in French and translated into English. Often, it just sounds…weird.

Aja also struggles to find his tone, with it veering from being a psychodrama to a full-blown fantasy moment-to-moment. It’s ultra-ambitious, and in that regard I guess Aja can’t be criticized too heavily as he’s clearly trying to branch out beyond horror (I though he did a great job with HORNS) but the material does not seem like a strong match with his particular talents, even though it has some nice bits, such as the score by Patrick Watson.

In the end, THE 9TH LIFE OF LOUIS DRAX is a bit of a disaster, although I’d wager Aja’s heart was in the right place. It’s messy and definitely something that will underwhelm the genre fans that look forward to his movies. This one is a curio at best.

Source: JoBlo.com

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