Next in our line of Venice Film Fest movies scored by the critics: "A Dangerous Method," the Freud/Jung period drama directed by once-slashery David Cronenberg, starring Cronenberg's oughties muse Viggo Mortensen as Freud, Michael Fassbender (yes please) as Jung and Keira Knightley as the brilliant, troubled Sabina Speilrein, a Russian-Jewish patient of Jung's who plays a pivotal role in the two mens' friendship and ends up a respected psychoanalyst in her own right. As with Madonna's period piece, "W.E.," the critics can't agree on whether Cronenberg's stab at history is too self-conscious or just self-conscious enough, but their general takeaway is far more positive, with special kudos for the strong trinity of actors and Knightley's willingness to get ugly. Sunny with a chance. Read on for more:
"The main performances are fine, with Fassbender conveying seething emotion beneath a calm veneer. But it’s Knightley that one remembers, for a full-on portrayal that is gutsy and potentially divisive in equal parts."
Score: 3/5 stars
This Is London:
"David Cronenberg's film, adapted by Christopher Hampton, from his play The Talking Cure (in turn, based on John Kerr's book A Most Dangerous Method) is, despite its complicated subject matter, one of the most straightforward he has made."
Score: 4/5 stars
Xan Brooks, The Guardian:
"[A] heartfelt, well-acted but curiously underwhelming slab of Masterpiece Theatre. A Dangerous Method feels heavy and lugubrious. It is a tale that comes marinated in port and choked on pipe-smoke. You long for it to hop down from the couch, throw open the windows and run about in the garden."
Score: 2/5 stars
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter:
"Shaking off any dusty remnants of a period biographical piece, the film tackles thorny psycho-sexual issues and matters of professional ethics with a frankness that feels entirely contemporary. Precise, lucid and thrillingly disciplined, this story of boundary-testing in the early days of psychoanalysis is brought to vivid life by the outstanding lead performances of Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender."
"[A] curious tone pitched between placid costume drama and the threat of domestic horror."
"Knightley, seemingly unhinging her lower jaw like a Predator, is all mannerism at first. Still, if the take off and landing are a bit bumpy, most of “A Dangerous Method” is fearsomely smart, a grown-up film that doesn’t forget to move you even as it fires up the synapses. Mortensen caps off a trilogy of perfect performances for Cronenberg (and is the film’s best bet for award nods, we imagine), the other leads hold their own, at least after that awkward first reel, and it examines the creative and destructive elements of sexuality in a way that very few filmmakers would dare."
(Quoting producer Jeremy Thomas): "The film is like an incredible action movie with words."
"The film in fact looks more like a novel that’s been put on film line by line, without any consideration for the media that was being used...perhaps the story (based on a 2002 play by Christopher Hampton) should never have been considered for the big screen."
Overall Critical Score: B+
"A Dangerous Method" hits theaters Nov. 23, 2011. For now, get your Mortensen-as-an-unlikely-but-somehow-totally-logical-Freud fix by WATCHING the trailer below: