Sunday, September 25, 2016

THE FLY (1986) - ****½


Rated R
Running time: 96 min.
Release date: August 15, 1986

David Cronenberg's The Fly tells the story of a likable but socially maladjusted scientist who is dying to tell the world about his creation while also feeling that the world is not quite ready to hear about it yet. He falls in love with a woman and then wouldn't you know it? Something happens that changes everything, just when life was getting good. Through all the disgusting slime and gore, we find a film that has a heart, the central performance is so good that we can't look away from even the more stomach-churning moments because it turns out that we care what happens, just like the woman amidst all this must feel.

The film's plot kicks into gear rather quickly as scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) meets science journalist Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) at a press junket. He convinces her that he's onto something big that will change the world and she agrees to go back to his lab. He has been working on a teleportation experiment that transfers matter from one "telepod" to another. There is some flirtation between the two, as Veronica takes off one of her stockings for Seth to use in his exhibition and then she is immediately interested when the teleportation is successful. Seth tries to discourage her from reporting the story in return for exclusive rights to the story when his work is completed, as well as being the official documenter of his experiences.

Veronica works for her ex-lover, Stathis Borans (John Getz), who doesn't seem to catch on the fact that the two are no longer an item. As Seth and Veronica begin a romantic relationship, Stathis becomes jealous. He shows up in her apartment to take a shower and stakes out Seth's apartment all night when she stays over. The film handles the relationship between Veronica and Stathis in a confusing manner and is one of the only flaws of the movie. How can someone continue to work with a former lover that exhibits creepy stalker behavior? Then Veronica uses Stathis as somewhat of a support system whenever she needs help. This part of the story didn't really work.

In the meantime, Seth drinks a little too much one night and decides to test out his process on himself. Unbeknownst to him, a fly gets into the system and becomes part of the process. Seth comes out the other side seemingly fine, but soon after he is exhibiting strength and agility that he has not known before. Then his personality begins to change, causing problems between Veronica and himself. That is not all that is changing. Seth's whole appearance begins to take a turn for the worse, as fingernails and ears begin to fall off. Eventually, Seth figures out what went wrong and what he just might be turning into.

Jeff Goldblum's performance is the heart of the film. He portrays Seth Brundle as intelligent, as we listen to him speak in a believable manner. As layers upon layers of make-up are applied to Goldblum through the course of the film, we feel sympathetic toward Seth. Here was a genial, likable character that is suddenly falling apart, quite literally. He was looking at becoming a trailblazer in the scientific community and was just entering into a healthy relationship when it was all taken away from him. Geena Davis is equally strong as Veronica. She sees brilliance in Seth, is attracted to him for who he is, and as Seth metamorphoses into something that others see as disgusting and frightening, she sticks by him, wanting to help. We have two excellent characterizations here, thanks to great acting and a smart script.

Also at the heart of the film are the tremendous makeup and creature effects. Designed by Chris Walas, the rapid deterioration of Seth is designed to be both disgusting and something to pity. David Cronenberg adds his usual flair for the gory, but it is really kept to a minimum for the most part, that is until the final scene, which is when all hell breaks loose. Some of the gore is even played for laughs, as The Fly finds lightness in a man's torture. The film finds the right balance between horror-film gore and touching human drama, making The Fly a very interesting and entertaining film.


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