Presented as a flashback, we meet a sick, elderly Constance on her death bed, who decides to come clean and reveal to her daughter exactly what happened in regards to her father’s disappearance. We start at the very beginning, when Constance (Jena Malone) first stumbled across Dr. Joseph Barton (Ed Stoppard), only for the pair to fall helplessly in love with one another. Giving birth to a young daughter, Angelica, it seems it will be their only child following complications during childbirth. Predating contraception, the pair become sexually repressed, and soon the former starts to witness visions, the outline of a sexual predator hovering over her daughter’s bed at night. Though her husband refuses to believe there’s anything genuine about her claims, Constance’s mental breakdown is put down to mere delirium, but as the visions reoccur, she remains adamant she’s telling the truth.
Lichtenstein has allowed his actors the license to be as over the top as humanly possible, and it’s fair to say that both Malone and Stoppard exercise that right – not to mention the accidentally comical turn by Janet McTeer as Anne Montague. However being this hammy and overblown in their depictions, is in tune with this absurd narrative, particularly for Stoppard, who is gloriously detestable. The seedy, deviant of a man is ineffably creepy – while at the same time, is laughably bad. You could argue that his theatricality enhances the farcical nature, but when actually analysing it from a critical perspective, well, where do you even begin?
There’s a point, around a third in to proceedings, where you start to question whether this title is actually genius, following on from where Showgirls left off, it’s of the ‘so bad it’s good’ variety. But then you look at the time, and realise there is still an hour left to go, and let’s just say that the joke soon turns sour, and unbearably tedious. By the latter stages you’re desperate for Barton to just hurry up and disappear, and for Constance’s story to come an abrupt end.
Dick Pope’s cinematography is a positive, though it’s not much of a saving grace, in a film that will have you laughing out loud on occasion, when, and believe me, that is most certainly not the desired reaction. The theme of female sexual oppression is explored in a farcical manner, plus, given everything we see is supposedly a dying mother confessing all to her daughter, there really is no need for the bizarre oral sex scene. It’s just too weird. Though, in a way, oddly in tune with the rest of this nonsensical piece of cinema.