NUMBER 23, THE
By the time Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey) arrives late for a rendezvous with Agatha (Victoria Madsen) near a bookshop, Ag has found a book, The Number 23, which she insists he read, it's so engaging. But Walter finds the book too familiar to his own life for comfort, as it builds an obsession with 23 as a fateful number which can influence people's lives - dramatically. Drawn deeper and deeper into this obsession, Walter begins to dream and imagine terrible things that his alter ego does - indeed, his friends also appear in noirish versions of themselves, as he tries to find a killer and to prevent a suicide.
Review by Louise Keller:
Beware of paranoia settling in after seeing The Number 23. You may find yourself checking dates and counting numbers or even reading number plates or barcodes. A story about obsession, Joel Schumacher's dense film is a curious mix of genres. A drama with noir overtones, it's a thriller, murder mystery, family and psychological drama. So much is thrown into the script, it's as though the writer (Fernley Phillips) was desperate to include his every idea and offer every possible opportunity for complexity and confusion. The result is a bewildering and heavy handed tale filled with angst, notions of coincidence, fate and destiny.
'If Only' would be the perfect epitaph on a grave, according to Jim Carrey's easy-going family man Walter Sparrow who finds himself obsessed by the self-printed and published manuscript given to him by his wife Agatha (Virginia Madsen) for his birthday. This is Carrey in his dark persona and his performance is fine, as he displays an undercurrent of angst that escalates as the film unravels. As he reads chapter after chapter, Walter believes he is somehow connected to the central detective Fingerling. In Walter's mind, Fingerling's dark-haired femme fatale Fabrizia is his beloved Agatha (Madsen also plays dual roles), and their sexual and violent relationship becomes frenzied as he learns about the enigmatic ambiguities of the number 23.
There's a dog called Ned that guards the dead, a murdered student, a suicide blonde, a voluptuous sexpot who is turned on by violence and the obsessive fear of the relevance of the number 23. There's a dark edge to all the film and Schumacher relentlessly thrusts his garbled message right until the last frame. There is a personal crisis and choices that are tough. But according to Schumacher, the right ending may not be happy, but it's the right ending.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Possibly inspired by Memento, Joel Schumacher does a chaotic job of turning this thriller into indigestible jelly - it wobbles formless for a while, finally settling into the shape of a duck. The problems begin gently enough as we are readied to expect a bombardment of things 23. That includes the overworked opening titles. Sure enough, the first scene is dated February 3 - 2/3, geddit? It goes on with a veritable firestorm of 23s and 32s, its inverted, evil twin. Our poor antihero, William (Jim Carrey) finds 23 in everything, as he points out to his soon to be long suffering wife, Ag (Virginia Madsen). [Don't try this at home; you'll go barmy.]
Picking up enthusiasm for making the film as obsessive as his character, Schumacher starts to take us into William's fevered, floundering mind - his imaginings and his dreams. In these, his alter ego, conjured from the book, lives a life in a parallel, film noir universe.
Stylish but lacking meaning or reason, the film hurtles towards its revelation about the identity of the book's author (or is it the killer...) and unravels in tandem with William. Red herrings, red walls and red pools of blood colour an often dark vision and the silliness gives way to a morbid and unsatisfactory finale.
It's a bit pointless to talk about performances in a film which forbids us any sympathy for or interest in its key characters. Inconsistencies are given a creative spin - like a spot of blood dropping onto the page of the core prop, the book itself, for no good (or bad) reason.
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NUMBER 23, THE (MA)
CAST: Jim Carrey, Virginia Madsen, Logan Lerman, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins, Rhona Mitra, Michelle Arthur, Mark Pellegrino,
PRODUCER: Beau Flynn, Fernley Phillips, Tripp Vinson
DIRECTOR: Joel Schumacher
SCRIPT: Fernley Phillips
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Matthew Libatique
EDITOR: Mark Stevens
MUSIC: Harry Gregson-Williams
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Andrew Laws
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 25, 2007