Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Worst Film of 2011: The Ledge

The Sundance press corps is not exactly a hotbed of Evangelical Christianity, so when they unanimously diss and dismiss a self-proclaimed atheist “thriller” as a steaming pile of rubbish, it is worth noting. This was the case with Matthew Chapman’s deservedly panned The Ledge, which is indeed the worst film of 2011, but not for the reasons he might assume.

In a way, it is sort of a gift to dub a film like this the worst, because it probably plays to his persecution complex. However, if this dissuades only one person from enduring his lame potboiler, it is worth it. Sadly, there were several other candidates in 2011. In fact, this piece should carry a huge asterisk, since I have not been subjected to the precociousness of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I’m also at a loss to explain why Peep World was produced or why anyone would think Sarah Silverman is funny. The staggeringly ill-conceived Waiting for Forever was a particularly close contender, but it so earnestly wants to be loved, it is hard to empty another critical clip into it. There is no such problem with the Ledgeroo.

The Ledge begins with a dude on a ledge and the sooner he jumps, the better. This is Gavin Nichols, an 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) as a way to get back at her Evangelical husband and by extension all Christians. This constitutes workplace sexual harassment. No matter what Chapman might think, there is nothing cute or romantic about it. It is illegal and no woman who finds herself in Shana’s place has to take it.

Of course, in the godless world of The Ledge, his victim, Shana, falls in love with her sexual predator, while her faithful husband is presented as the creep. 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.

Though Chapman’s story and dialogue are howlingly bad, his cast does not do him any favors either. Terrence Howard’s flat-footed Lucetti basically makes surliness boring. As Nichols, Charlie Hunnam looks like a surfer and sounds like a used car salesman, while Liv Tyler basically sleepwalks through each of Shana’s scenes, as if she were zonked out on Thorazine.

Considering the thinness of the characterizations, the hamminess of Hunnam’s lead performance, and the clumsy plot contrivances, one has to wonder if it was all produced by Max Bialystock, but the poorly executed The Ledge is just a mirthless mess. Frankly, this is an unusually mean-spirited and hypocritical film, exhibiting the same judgmental intolerance it makes such an exaggerated show of condemning. Petty and genuinely misogynistic, The Ledge is the worst film of 2011. Happy New Year.