peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2023 11 13 Foe

Foe (2023)

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Jason Di Rosso interviewed Australian co-writer/director Garth Davis but was not enthusiastic about the film so I had some idea what I was in for. The raw material was supplied by Iain Reid. I didn't get it at all.

The setup has Paul Mescal, new to me, hitched to Saoirse Ronan in a Midwest that is transparently somewhere in Victoria. (Was that Pabst Blue Ribbon beer? Wow.) Actually it's more like she's shackled by him, at least some of the time, and the deep confusion begins when we hear that they went to school together but didn't properly meet or romance until later. How could she not know what she was getting into? He's the latest and possibly last patriarch of his family farm, now infertile apart from one lonely Eucalypt, and for much of it the marriage is a joyless grind apart from some ecstatic sex in random locations.

This is all bent by a busted scifi premise, something like Total Recall without ... well, everyone. He's drafted by some corporation to go off-world by bemused Englishman Aaron Pierre who arrives in the self-driving iCybertruck for model year 2065. Both he and Ronan smoke like it’s 1965. Somehow it is critical that Ronan not be left by herself — what about him on the space station? what is this, 1865? — so at about 43 minutes in a clone is arranged and the movie announces itself as being written by very limited men. (The cinematography already suggests this by cleaving so close to murky Fincher despite there being ample opportunity for expansive Malick-esque twirling. The CGI is generally terrible and unnecessary, and overall it made me wish I was watching another open-air Werner Herzog.)

This much I knew from Di Rosso's interview, as well as there being a twist. Well, I didn't understand the twist at all. At about 50 minutes it's clear that something else is going on. Later he doesn't think to use a powertool to solve his problem (a bracelet) which makes it clear we're not looking at a farmboy. There's a strange blood-and-soil motif at 1hr10min. I started to wonder if this wasn't The Game, but no, eventually (1hr25m) the clone is informed "it" is not "real" and so it goes. Who agreed to the premise of this setup? What was learnt from this unreality? They created a golem and the result was hellishly predictable.

Actually my problems started very early on. Why is this government or corporation moving people to space, and why would it be temporary? Everyone knows only the billionaires are going, or more likely machinery with their consciousnesses encoded. And the initial scene of Ronan blubbing in the shower (she does a lot of blubbing throughout) almost made me quit right then. The ending suggests (spoiler? can it be spoilt?) she got cloned too.

Against this Her looks like genius. I had hoped it was going for the Laura moves but no. Another option might've been a clone-only marriage or to take it to the limit as Star Wars fanfic.

Ben Kenigsberg was scathing. Luke Goodsell: over earnest, Bladerunner, it's gonna get smashed. Wendy Ide and Adrian Horton did some (more) smashing: Black Mirror: Be Right Back from 2013, predating the book. Oops. Another stomping from Monica Castillo: if the copy is any good it could go to space instead of him. Oops. Generally held to be accidentally comical. Oops.