Spider  (2003) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Spider is a movie from the very talented but dourly strange director David Cronenberg (Crash, The Fly), starring the very talented but equally dour, strange, and humorless Ralph Fiennes, so you just know it's gonna be a light hearted laugh riot. Despite those big names and a European run, it has not yet opened in North America as I write this, despite six Canadian Genie nominations. Cronenberg is from North America (Canada), so that marketing strategy is pretty confusing until you realize that the commercial potential of this film is pretty darned close to zero, although I suppose you could consider it an artistic success.

Fiennes plays a troubled, unsmiling, loony with a minimal grasp on reality. Released from the institution, he is in a halfway house, and his re-introduction to the city causes him to re-experience the incidents that drove him to madness in his childhood. He rarely speaks, and when he does speak or write, it is in a language of his own devising.  It is a painfully languid movie, so slow and deliberate that if Andrei Tarkovsky were still alive and saw this movie, he'd be shouting "get on with it" at the screen. This thing makes Solaris seem like an Indiana Jones movie. Not only does it move slowly, but when something does happen, the screen action is often silent or in Fiennes's incomprehensible idiolect. Worse than that, it is a psychological mystery which is 98 minutes long, in which the solution is obvious after about ten minutes. It would have been obvious even sooner, except that the first nine minutes consist solely of Fiennes mumbling, crawling, drooling on his old worn shoes, and holding his hands at odd angles.

You know, the usual "loony schtick".

Once he stopped grimacing and babbling, we realize that there is some kind of mystery, and it is then completely obvious what the solution must be. Unfortunately, the transparent mystery means that we have to endure 88 additional minutes of drooling and delusional flashbacks until the director chooses to reveal what we can already see.


Alison Egan flashed a single breast in a pub scene.
not yet on home media

The visuals are imagined well, and the acting is great. Miranda Richardson plays three parts. Well, she actually plays one part which is completely her own, and she shares two other parts with other women. This quirky shared casting is related to the delusions inherent when the film assumes the POV of the Fiennes character.

Ralph Fiennes himself plays a troubled, humorless soul better than anyone in the world. Even better than Jeremy Irons. In fact, he makes Irons seem as zany and devil-may-care as Dean Martin.

The Critics Vote

  • BBC 3/5

  • The film was nominated for six Genies (Canadian academy), including best director.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. Voting results: IMDb voters score it 7.1/10,
  • not yet open in North America


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, C-. Well acted and sharply imagined, but way, way, way too slow, given that its "mystery" plot is immediately obvious.

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