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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday, April 24, 2014 - Edition No 894 

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EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, THE

SYNOPSIS:
When 19 year old Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter) begins to have violent seizures and terrifying visions, she is given medication for epilepsy - but it doesn't help. In desperation, the family, devout Catholics living in a remote farmhouse, call in the local priest, Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson) who recognizes what he believes are signs of demonic possession and sets up an exorcism. Emily's demons refuse to respond and her ultra violent, self harming seizures finally claim her life. Father Moore is charged with negligent homicide, and the Archdiocese assigns the agnostic but able Erin Bruner (Laura Linney) as his defence attorney.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Claiming to be based on a true story (which isn't easy to corroborate, even with the film's production notes), Emily Rose's story poses the ultimate question of science against faith. Belief in demonic possession kinda proves there is a god by inference, and the film's manipulations are intended to drive us to that conclusion. Why else would you cast Laura Linney as the slightly sceptical (agnostic) defence attorney, one of only maybe four female actors with marquee value who could convince us of their professional status and also capture our sympathies the moment they walk on in such a role (the other three being Jodi Foster, Hilary Swank and Frances McDormand). Likewise Tom Wilkinson as the priest, all decency and moral trust.

By contrast, the prosecutor Ethan Thomas is played by Campbell Scott with all the icy aloofness he can muster and a sneering stuffiness that is intended to make us sneer back; his job is to ensure we discount his 'fact' based approach to the case. Emily herself is shown as a pitiable victim, a saint who sacrifices herself so that the world can see that the devil does indeed exist - hence so must his opposite.

I won't spoil the ending but it does seem to suggest a hedging of bets by the jury in the trial, and if it really does reference a case (like the 1970s case of one Anneliese Michel in Germany) it shows how inscrutable the subject is. As it was then.

But if we put aside all of the issues about its spiritual objectives (as well as its claim to factual genesis) and take the film as a piece of entertainment without the cloak of earnest discovery, it passes as a diverting blend of horror and courtroom drama. Effective performances and well paced story telling propel the film over some of the speed bumps with familiar devices of the horror genre - like squeaking doors, dreaded sounds and bumps in the night, shrieking sound effects over violent storms and jump cut scenes of demonic possession of a young woman wearing only a nightie.

Review by Louise Keller:
Don't be surprised if you wake up at 3am after you've seen The Exorcism of Emily Rose. I did, and there are enough frightening moments to make even the calmest people jumpy. 3am is the devil's hour and the film debates religion with demonic possession. While the story focuses on Emily Rose, the young woman who becomes possessed by the devil, the film also involves us in the stories of Laura Linney's adept defence prosecutor and Tom Wilkinson's honourable man of the cloth, Father Moore.

A well-made and superbly acted film, the film's structure of courtroom drama with flashbacks is a good one. But while the ingredients have merit, the final revelations come somewhat as a let down, and makes us feel rather manipulated and cheated.

Linney's Erin, who is defending the church, is an agnostic, while Campbell Scott's prosecutor Ethan Thomas is a churchgoer; the tension that builds up between them is, to my mind, the best part of the film. Jennifer Carpenter makes an impact as Emily Rose, whose body twists and contorts, although we never really feel as though we have got to know her at all. Her family, too, seem to have been created to suit the writer, rather than the audience. The film essentially belongs to Linney, who allows us to feel her vulnerability and partake the emotional journey with her. Director Scott Derrickson co-wrote the screenplay with Paul Harris Boardman, and although his heavy handed use of music is manipulative and overstated, my heart did pound quickly and loudly.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose is overlong at nearly two hours, and despite the pleasure of watching Linney in one of her best recent roles, only partially satisfies.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, THE (M)
(US, 2005)

CAST: Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Campbell Scott, Jennifer Carpenter, Colm Feore, Joshua Close, Ken Welsh, Duncan Fraser

PRODUCER: Paul Harris Boardman, Beau Flynn, Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Tripp Vinson

DIRECTOR: Scott Derrickson

SCRIPT: Scott Derrickson, Paul Harris Boardman

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tom Stern

EDITOR: Jeff Betancourt

MUSIC: Christopher Young

PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Brisbin

RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 27, 2005







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