TIFF 2012: PASSION Review

     September 13, 2012


There’s a difference between “old-school” and “out-of-touch”, and Brian De Palma‘s Passion disappointingly falls into the latter.  In an attempt to dig into his old bag of tricks when making a sexual thriller, Passion starts out promising, but then slowly devolves into a series of gimmicks and decisions that render the movie increasingly cheesy until it becomes unintentionally hilarious.  De Palma revisits woman’s sexual duality, but with Passion, his attempt feels like a mash-up of previous ideas played out to disastrous results.  The score is corny, the performances feel stilted, the cinematography is heavy-handed, and the twists become inane.  Passion is a throwback that should simply be thrown away.

Christine (Rachel McAdams) and Isabelle (Noomi Rapace) work together for a marketing firm.  The two are busy trying to figure out how to market a new phone, and Isabelle and her assistant Dani (Karoline Herfurth) come up with an ad that wows the higher-ups.  Christine, who is always about five seconds away from lezzing out with Isabelle, steals credit for the idea, and ignites a professional rivalry with her co-worker that quickly turns personal.  To further the corporate intrigue (which has all the tension of a training video), Christine is also covering the embezzlement of five million Euros by Isabelle’s cheating boyfriend Dirk (Paul Anderson).


Passion begins with plenty of potential by returning to the themes of De Palma’s Sisters, Dressed to Kill, Body Double, and Femme Fatale, specifically with regards to dual identities as it relates to sexuality.  From the beginning, Christine is comparing herself to Isabelle, and then trying to possess her.  “You’re more like me than you think,” Christine tells her co-worker.  Isabelle responds by repeating Christine’s actions through means of retaliation although she soon discovers she’s out of her league. The film is also littered with symbols of fractured identities like a mask the kinky Christine has made so that her lovers can wear it.  De Palma has always embraced a level of sexploitation in his movies, and the film feels like it could tip into a Skinemax movie at any moment.

And eventually it does.  De Palma’s direction seems intent on tearing apart his own movie by drowning it in whatever terrible element he can find.  Pino Donaggio‘s atrocious score haunts the film from start to finish, but it could be ignored if it were the only thing wrong with the movie.  The music would simply be an unfortunate choice forced upon a thoughtful movie where the tension of the characters feels well-designed.  That is until the credibility of the relationships start falling apart, and McAdams and Rapace seemingly forget how to act.  They seem to be confused on what kind of movie they’re supposed to be in.  Is it knowingly camp, or is De Palma making an honest return to his work of the 1980s?  The actresses seem caught in between an uncertain style, and their ambivalence shows.


Perhaps De Palma is trying to show how Isabelle is sinking further into madness, and the heightened emotions are playing out through the abrasive direction, but this change radically diminishes what comes before.  Halfway through Passion, the cinematography becomes almost nothing but canted angles with all the light coming through window blinds (because, as per usual, bars show a character is trapped by their situation).  Paired with Donaggio’s cheesy music, the style of Passion becomes too much to bear.

The style is made even worse by being layered over a story that becomes ridiculously stupid as it moves along.  The corporate nonsense slows down the momentum at the outset, but the film at least has the energy of the sexual tension and identity issues between Christine and Isabelle.  But by the third act, the movie transforms into an episode of Law & Order crossed with one of the worst kind of twists a film can have, and then doing that twist three or four times.  Passion could at least hide behind the excuse of parody except the movie is completely straight-faced in its first-act.


There may be some kind of internal thematic logic ticking underneath Passion, but it’s not worth examination when it’s trapped under such a crummy plot that’s poorly directed, acted, shot, and scored.  It’s frustrating and sad to watch De Palma’s movie spiral wildly out of control when earlier in his career he mastered the art of combining a pulpy yarn with thoughtful themes.   Passion doesn’t feel like a return to form for De Palma as much as it feels like a director desperately trying to recapture his previous success and coming up dreadfully short.

Rating: D

For all of our TIFF 2012 coverage, click here.  Here are links to all of my TIFF 2012 reviews:

Around The Web

Latest News

New CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR Set Photos Reveal Paul Rudd, Robert Downey Jr.

Half the MCU has assembled in Atlanta.

NOW YOU SEE ME 3 Heads into Development; Lionsgate Sees Magical Franchise

The studio wants to see more tricks.

New FANTASTIC FOUR Footage Breaks Down the Heroes’ Superpowers

The TV spot goes into incredible powers like invisibility, super-strength, and buying movie tickets.

A VERY MURRAY CHRISTMAS Trailer Features a Sad, Antlered Bill Murray

Sofia Coppola directed the Netflix special, which will also star George Clooney, Amy Poehler, Chris Rock, Maya Rudolph, Jason Schwartzman, and more.

Brad Bird Talks TOMORROWLAND, Why He Passed on STAR WARS, THE INCREDIBLES 2 and More

He also talks about potential plans for Blu-ray and theatrical re-releases for 'The Iron Giant'.

Ethan Hawke Talks GOOD KILL, Working at Burger King and More

He also reveals one very important thing director Andrew Niccol learned to do since they made 'Gattaca' together.

First MACBETH Clips Show a Highly Stylized War and Coronation

Justin Kurzel’s adaptation takes place in 11th century Scotland and stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.

KNOCK KNOCK: Keanu Reeves Gets Tortured By Sexy Psychopaths in International Trailer

Eli Roth's latest film stars Keanu Reeves as a good guy who does a bad thing...and pays for it dearly.

Paramount’s WORLD WAR Z Sequel Gets a Summer 2017 Release Date

'The Impossible' helmer J.A. Bayona will direct the sequel from a script by Steven Knight with Brad Pitt returning in the lead role.

Reese Witherspoon to Play Tinkerbell in Live-Action Disney Movie

Disney will not stop until every single one of its animated classics has a live-action reboot.

Page 1 of 3,96012345...102030...Last »