A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 385 – The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect – March 20th, 2011

We’ve had this movie for a while and I’ve been avoiding it. Back when it came out I remember seeing ads for it and thinking that the concept looked right up my alley. I do so enjoy the concept of alternate timelines and how one little difference can cascade into a huge change. But the movie also looked pretty damn dark and I could just never work myself into the right mood for it. It got not so great reviews, people have mentioned it being messy, and well, I just never got around to it. On purpose. It’s not Ashton Kutcher. I have no real issues with him, to be honest. It’s not the acting or the concept. It’s just, well, I enjoyed the ideas the movie presented, but I didn’t enjoy the movie and that’s about what I was expecting but not in so many words.

The thing about this movie is that it’s sort of taking the It’s a Wonderful Life thing and spinning it out into a whole new realm of possibilities that wouldn’t have been allowed on screen in Capra’s day. After all, no matter how horrible things seemed to George Bailey, his wife being a spinster librarian (I know I just mentioned that a few days ago but it cracks me up) is nothing in comparison to a heroin addicted prostitute. Which is what this movie presents us with as a possible outcome of changing a timeline. In order to show us just how bad tampering in the past can get, it has to go pretty dark. And then it has to go darker! It starts out bad to show us why our man character, Evan, feels like he has to go back and change things. And then it gets worse to keep Evan moving and changing more.

The movie starts out by bringing us along through Evan’s childhood where we meet his mother, find out his father’s institutionalized for an unspecified mental illness, and then meet his friends and go through a series of defining events for them. There’s an episode that’s strongly hinted at being sexual abuse at the hands of the father of two of Evan’s friends, Kayleigh and Tommy. There’s a prank gone wrong that apparently caused a great deal of damage and Evan’s friend Lenny in a catatonic state for a while. Evan and Kayleigh kiss. Tommy tries to kill Evan’s dog. Then Evan moves away. And through it all Evan has these little blackouts. He’ll come to and remember nothing of the prior few minutes. Later on, when Evan finds out that by reading his journals he can enter his past and alter his own actions we know that those blackouts signal a time when adult Evan’s been visiting.

It’s a bit of a time travel paradox, since the blackouts happen in the timeline that’s presented as being the original, but in that timeline he hasn’t changed anything so why would he have blacked out? Plotwise, the blackouts serve to tell Evan what the crucial points are that will be useful to him. I can handwave it, really. As a plot device, it works okay. It’s just that the movie gets so very dark as it goes on. And it starts with child abuse, a dead dog and a suicide, so getting worse from there? Yeah. Oh, the movie tries to trick you, initially jumping Evan and Kayleigh into a happy relationship in college where Evan’s in a frat and Kayleigh’s in a sorority and they’re madly in love. But you just know that they’re doomed. And so they are, when Tommy shows up and trashes Evan’s car, then Evan beats him in self defense and ends up in jail where more horrible things happen until he can get his journals and change something in the past. One by one he ruins his friends’ lives, then his own and his mother’s and then his own again. And then he has to figure out how to fix it.

The director’s cut ending for this movie is sort of the anti-It’s a Wonderful Life. Which I understand the point of, but I didn’t really like. Now, the theatrical ending? I can understand why it might feel like a cop out, but given just how bad some of this movie gets, it’s rather nice to see Evan actually get a life, even if it’s not the one he’d hoped to create. Oh well. Like I said, I like the concept of the movie and I liked a lot of the performances. I’ve got to hand it to Logan Lerman and John Patrick Amedori for playing the younger versions of Evan and then playing older Evan speaking through them when he goes back to change things. It can’t have been an easy thing to do and I liked the effect. So I liked the performances and I liked the concept. It’s just that the final product is, by its nature, unpleasant. Which is unfortunate but not unexpected. At least not for me.

March 20, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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