The Constant Gardener (2005)
Review Date: December 16, 2005
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Writer: Jeffrey Caine
Producers: Simon Channing-Williams
Ralph Fiennes as Justin
Rachel Weisz as Tessa
Danny Huston as Sandy
This film starts with a British diplomat finding out that his wife has been brutally murdered in Kenya. Initially, he is left to believe that the whole thing stemmed from her cheating on him with some dude over there, but as he slowly looks into her shenanigans in that country, he finds out that her murder may have been the end result of her discovery about certain big business nastiness. Instead of moving on with his life, the husband decides to head down there himself and see what’s what.
I busted this film’s balls over the summer because I had read its synopses and seen its trailer and couldn’t understand how a movie that seemed to have such an interesting plotline and cool-looking clips, could have such a horrible, horrible title. I mean, the film doesn’t have shit to do with gardening and even less to do with anything constant, so what the heck, man? Now that I’ve seen the movie, I can definitely see why the studio decided to keep its lame title as per the book on which it’s based: the film itself is pretty lame as well. In fact, it might just be one of the most overrated movies of the year, considering the gaggle of positive reviews that I’ve seen about it elsewhere. Granted, the film puts across an intriguing concept, ultimately speaks of an important issue pertaining to Africa, drug companies and big business rotten-ness, but honestly, there wasn’t much in this movie that I hadn’t seen or heard before, and told better – particularly in news reports or documentaries. If you’re going to base a movie around all of that – a motion picture that is meant to inform and entertain (presumably) – you have to fill it with more than just a basic underlying theme of corrupt government/big business. We already know all that. It took about an hour and fifteen minutes for this film to get into its “real plotline” (as a viewer, you can see where it’s going way before it goes there), and even once it reached its point of so-called “excitement”, nothing much really happened, other than the director featuring more close-ups of Ralph Fiennes’ face, so that we can feel more claustrophobic and suspenseful, I suppose.
Now before you think that I completely hated this film, understand that I generally love political thrillers, even those that depend more on their cerebral elements, rather than any actual thrills, but this film just “spoke” too damn much, seemed to be talking about the same thing over and over again (some of the flashbacks seemed redundant as well), and ultimately really didn’t inform me all that much, and certainly didn’t entertain. Fiennes is fine in his role as the grieving-soon-to-be-pissed husband, and Rachel Weisz was decent as the wife, but neither really brought any extra potency to their written-to-be-distant parts either. Sure, once things dragged down nearing the film’s conclusion, I appreciated the connection between the two characters, but that whole thing is slapped in the face when another character literally gets up and reads a notice to a group of people in his audience (read: you and me as well), explaining the whole shebang to everyone. Kinda like a killer at the end of a horror movie. Lame-o. But the film is pretty to look at, the directing keeps things moving pretty well – despite not much happening most of the time – and unlike most films these days, this one actually has something to say. I only wish they had wrapped it in less padding (way too many shots of kids running around the streets), injected it with a handful of thrilling or action sequences (just to wake us up, if anything) and ultimately, provided the audience with something a little less clichéd and a lot more entertaining and/or informative. Oh, and if you’re looking for a straight-forward “thriller”, stay faaaar away from this one, because it truly plays more like a political drama, than a thriller. In fact, I don’t remember being thrilled even once.
(c) 2014 Berge Garabedian