Friday, July 08, 2011

Just Jump, Dude: The Ledge

This film might well be a history-making event. It must be the first time an Iowahawk parody of tone-deaf atheist Hollywood was accidentally produced. However, the joke is on viewers when Matthew Chapman’s staggeringly inept The Ledge dead-cat bounces into theaters today.

The Ledge begins with a dude on a ledge and the sooner he jumps, the better. This is Gavin Nichols, the aggressively atheist hotel manager, who decided to seduce one of his maids (evidently, because he lacks the sense of moral responsibility that comes with a belief in a higher power). To sweeten the pot, the lovely but mousy Shana is married to Joe, an emotionally abusive Evangelical, who fancies himself a specialist at converting non-believers like Nichols.

Naturally, Nichols and his sexually harassed employee fall for each other, which pushes Christian Joe over the edge, so to speak. In violation of all Christian principles, he takes Shana hostage, issuing Nichols a grim ultimatum: kill thyself by the appointed hour or Shana’s death will be on your head. At this point, dumb copper Hollis Lucetti wanders onto the ledge, so we can watch Nichols’ stilted story in flashbacks.

Reportedly, Chapman has described The Ledge as his attempt to make an atheist Brokeback Mountain. However, Ang Lee’s film had genuine artistic merit regardless of how one feels about gay rights. Frankly, The Ledge is not even a cheesy atheist Liberace: Behind the Music. His screenplay has all the ferocity and insight of a high school convert to atheism. Nichols’ arguments consists entirely of “where’s your proof” taunts. Frankly, despite Chapman’s transparent efforts to rig the game in his favor, poor Joe nearly gets the better of him.

Chapman’s cast does not do him any favors either. As Nichols, Charlie Hunnam looks like a surfer and sounds like a used car salesman. It is impossible to believe he could talk a two dollar prostitute into bed with a twenty dollar bill, let alone a married woman, no matter how lame her husband might be. Visibly embarrassed, Liv Tyler basically sleepwalks through each of Shana’s scenes, hoping to wake up from this career nightmare.

It is hard to recall a film as poorly executed as The Ledge that did not at least offer the benefit of some unintentional humor, but this is just a mirthless mess. While Chapman evidently intended it as a work of atheist evangelism, it is likely to have the exact opposite effect. After watching it, viewers will likely want to prostrate themselves on the floor of St. Patrick’s cathedral, giving thanks to God they are not such miserable wastes of life as the characters of The Ledge. In fact, the incompetence displayed throughout the film is such a spectacle of mysterious enormity, I humbly submit it as proof of the existence of the God it seeks to deny. However, the ham-fisted didactic human agency behind the film is impossible to recommend. For unfathomable reasons, The Ledge opens today in New York at the IFC Center, while God laughs.