I’m such a fan of Swiss-born, Québécoise filmmaker Léa Pool’s autobiographical Set Me Free (Emporte-moi, 1999) that I don’t know what to make of her Lost and Delirious. A boarding-school melodrama of a freshman girl’s coming-of-age and a senior’s disintegration after her first love affair goes south, the film vastly alters plot details of Susan Swan’s autobiographical novel The Wives of Bath, in addition to updating it from the early sixties to the present. Her father and girlfriend/stepmother have deposited quiet Mouse there, orphaning her further after her mother’s death; her roommates, it turns out, are lovers. Mouse’s gradual acceptance of their lesbianism is part of her emotional growth (some of which is recorded in voiceover), but Paulie’s breakdown after Tori dumps her for a boy is so garishly painted that Mouse’s interior drama, and along with it her status as protagonist, gets lost in the emotional chaos. It also doesn’t help that Mischa Barton, who plays Mouse, is an incompetent actress.
Angelina Jolie-lookalike Piper Perabo takes over with her hysterical stridency—even before the breakup with Tori—as Paulie. The film’s schematic quality, culminating in a suicidal flight of freedom off a roof, revolves around her pushy, one-dimensional characterization. Perabo is nowhere near as convincing as Liza Minnelli as Pookie in The Sterile Cuckoo (Alan J. Pakula, 1969).
Paulie develops a relationship with an injured hawk out in the woods, whose recovery becomes a magnet for the care that has nowhere else to go after Tori’s rejection. It is the recovered bird’s flight that we see at the end—a poetical touch, not a poetic one. Symbols and metaphors should enrich a work of art, not reduce it.
Herself a lesbian, Pool pleads her case for tolerance. Alas, her film does little else.
B(U)Y THE BOOK
MY BOOK, A Short Chronology of World Cinema, IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM THE SANDS FILMS CINEMA CLUB IN LONDON. USING EITHER OF THE LINKS BELOW, ACCESS THE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THIS BOOK, FROM WHICH YOU CAN ORDER ONE OR MORE COPIES OF IT. THANKS.