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Marina Antunes [DVD News 04.18.10] movie review dvd thriller

Year: 2010
Director: Michael Lander
Writers: Michael Lander and Ryan O Roy
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 4.5 out of 10

The trailer for Michael Lander's Peacock suggested a strange, somewhat creepy tale of John Skillpa, a quiet man with a secret, a secret that the trailer gives away. But even with the big reveal thrown out so quickly, the trailer does something else: it suggests a film with mystery, intrigue and perhaps a little something sinister as if the fact that John is also Emma is simply a passing fact of little consequence sadly, the truth about Peacock is much less mysterious.

The first twenty minutes of Lander and co-writer Ryan O Roy's script is a thing of beauty. Gorgeously constructed, it features little dialog but manages to convey John/Emma's being in silent movement. We see Emma preparing breakfast, cleaning up and longingly spying on the neighbours before changing into a skittish John, a man so meek he seems afraid of everything. We see him at work, in his spare time and then home to have dinner and heading for bed before we realize that Emma only comes out in the mornings and then, only for a short period of time. At first, it seems as though Emma is really just John in drag but when we see the second day of transformation, it's clear that there's more at play that we're not privy too, at least not yet. Then John's quiet living comes to a crossroad when a train derails and crashes into his yard and it's that out of control train that sends John's world into a tailspin.

It's clear from the get go that there's a mystery to John and Lander tries to stretch that mystery as far as he can but in the end, it's simply not enough to keep the story going for 90 minutes and so the film stretches to include other side characters, none of which are particularly interesting or important. The film also draws out John's gradual “death” as Emma becomes the dominant personality but there doesn't seem to be any motivational pull to Emma's actions and it's never clear why she does what she does. It doesn't help that the film continually hints as to why Emma developed in the first place but other than a sentence about John “meeting” Emma on the day his mother died, the film never provides an answer. That's also fine, I tend to like it when directors leave something for the audience to figure out but when you do so, you also have to provide enough information so that the audience can figure the mystery out for themselves and Peacock never does that, choosing instead to ramble on uselessly until it finally cant ramble on anymore. What's worse is that the film is so bland I couldn't help but keep thinking about where Emma had come from and when the film failed to give me even that nugget of information, I was pissed off; I invested 90 minutes of my time to an uninteresting film and didn't even manage to walk away with the satisfaction of understanding what I'd just seen and what the point of it was.

It's not all bad. Though Peacock isn't exactly a good thriller, one can't really call it a thriller even though it tries, and tries hard, to provide a small semblance of anticipation and excitement (an attempt that stops working 15 minutes into the film), it does feature a great performance from Cillian Murphy in the dual role of John and Emma. The two characters are very different and Murphy brings them both to life rather well and even though neither is particularly memorable, his performance is interesting to watch. Ellen Page has the unfortunate job of playing the too-mature-for-her-age character (there's a stretch) who is so cliché it's a little painful to watch and though the film also features the talents of Josh Lucas, Keith Carradine and Bill Pullman, their roles are so minor they're hardly worth the mention (though it's worth noting that Pullman does stand out as the rambling bank manager and easily the creepiest character in the film).

Peacock tries hard to rise above the bare bones story concept but the acting and great score (Brian Reitzell's work is hauntingly gorgeous) are simply not enough to do it. When the credits rolled, I was so confused that I searched the extras for some clarification only to find an alternate ending that confused me even more. Lander's thriller wannabe is a confusing jumble of badly developed ideas which happen to be acted out by a talented group of actors who are squandered away in a film that is so concerned with creating a mystery that it overlooks the fact that it also needs to be a good movie. A sad waste of a great cast.

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Anonymous (12 years ago) Reply

Good review, I felt the same way but thought the actors were all standouts, especially Susan Sarandon. I know this will make me sound like a dick but... use spell check next time.


kaijinu (12 years ago) Reply

I disagree, I think it's a good movie. Sure it lacks the basic info, but didn't it came you you that Emma might had "appeared" as a proof that John can take care of himself and show independence.

John doesn't want to be controlled so he fears of having a "real" wife and instead, make one out of himself and also show that he takes care of himself. One can assume that he has been doing this long enough to assume that emma's "real" and in his control.

when that train hits, he began to lose control of his life that he gotten used to and emma began to be more dominant.

It's more of my opinion, i could be wrong, but yeah, like you said. it's not a thriller, but more like a drama disguised as a thriller.

(damn wikipedia covered it as a slasher! LIES!)


ha (12 years ago) Reply

I love the irony in YOUR rambling sentence, here: "That's also fine, I tend to like it when directors leave something for the audience to figure out but when you do so, you also have to provide enough information so that the audience can figure the mystery out for themselves and Peacock never does that, choosing instead to ramble on uselessly until it finally cant ramble on anymore."


Stevie Ruth (12 years ago) Reply

I think that Cillian Murphy was amazing as the dual lead role in the movie. He truly transformed into both characters who when put side by side, you could not tell they were the same person. The way he was so delicate and soft spoken as a woman and his male character, John, was portrayed beautifully as a nervous and solitary man who could barely make eye contact. Cillian made the movie come to life.


Melanie (12 years ago) Reply

I thought the movie was brilliant. Anyone who couldn't figure out why "John" developed a split personality, or why "Emma" wanted "John" dead suffers from a serious lack of imagination. Perhaps Marina should stop reviewing films and move on to something more cut and dried like...I don't know...writing crossword puzzles.


boocatbutterbee (6 years ago) Reply

Melanie, why do you have to express your disagreement in such a disagreeable way? It diminishes your underlying point. The obnoxiousness is an unneeded distraction and makes me wonder about sadism... Further, I do not believe the film was "brilliant". It wasn't well-enough written to be that good. Even I am smart enough to recognize that fact.


Anonymous (11 years ago) Reply

john developed dissociative personality disorder from the constant abuse from his mother. emma appears the day his mother dies because although she was abusive, she also served as the caregiver to john. john experienced a split in his personality to cope with his life. you probably weren't paying as close attention to the details, if you could not figure this out. Murphy was amazing in his portrayal and the story was interesting and intriguing as to what happens when you loose control of someone who shares the same body as you do.


El (11 years ago) Reply

I absolutely agree with Melanie.
The movie was great and Cillian played suberb!


Mind Power Mojo (11 years ago) Reply

Cillian totally kills as John/Emma. Of course, this quiet film was totally ignored by the Academy Awards, but Murphy should have been nominated for a best acting Oscar. I disagree that the film did not give the viewer enough info to garner some idea of what was up with this guy, Stillpa. He split when his abusive mother croaked. That's when John met Emma, he tells someone late in the story, when his mother died. Because of the train wreck in his backyard, "Emma" was forced out of the closet, so to speak, and the community in Peacock was now aware of "her". This put the painfully reclusive John into a very difficult scenario. Emma had until then somewhat taken the caring role of his mother, but when she started to meet other people in town, she found an identity that John was increasingly desperate to hide. The conclusion of the film is open-ended, yes, nothing particularly explosive happens at the end, but it will later, that is what we are left with.


loukuz (9 years ago) Reply

I just watched this film, and I loved Cillian's performance. It was outstanding. And I did understand what was going on with John/Emma in the film. I only wished someone would have caught on in the end. But it was left with a wondering thought of "how well we really don't know what goes on in our neighbors closed doors," It was an interesting film.


David (8 years ago) Reply

Just watched this. Those who have identified this split personality as John's response to the death of an abusive mother seem to have it right. No one has mentioned the seduction and killing of the guy in the motel. Perhaps this is Emma "killing" "John," recreating the scenario of Jake's [also abusive] conception. "Emma" seems to realize in the "life flashing before her/his eyes" that in her desire to create a family by taking Maggie and John under her wing that she is in danger of becoming John's mother, of becoming


David (8 years ago) Reply

[mouthy David] - of becoming abusively controlling herself. The ending is pacific, peaceful, in that John has expiated his sin by setting Jake and his mother free, and punishing himself [symbolically], retreating into the former secret world he was in before. John is "dead" [officially]; he cannot come back to life. There would be a great development: "Emma" cannot control the power of the "dead" John, who somehow comes back to life, and "Emma" must disappear, flee the town. Or John is so strong he actually reappears and scares the town to death. "Psycho" revealed the dual personalities at the end. This one could have too. But the ending "works"; it's plausible that "Emma" wins, and begins a "life" again [as explained above. Blah blah blah...]


polyvinyl (8 years ago) Reply

I think it is very clear that Emma is John reincarnating his controlling mother in his split personality. Her control over him did not end when she died. And he fights this control over him, while she becomes the dominant persona. At last he prevents the child from becoming her/ his next victim but is unable to free himself. In the end he returns into the cage of his mind.
The film/ script is not perfect, but Cillian Murphy gives a stunning performance of this torn mind, especially when at the end the two characters melt together and you can sense Emmas presence just in the way "John" moves.


Annie Oaktree (7 years ago) Reply

Did you notice that in all the Murphy/Page scenes they aren't really together? Not a single two-shot in any of them, just an anonymous shoulder or some other decoy to suggest they're actually talking together at the same time. Both performances were damaged by that (scheduling conflict?), especially Ellen's.


vanilla.s (7 years ago) Reply

i'm really surprised to see the negative opinions. to me, the picture is BEAUTIFUL in EVERY detail. i hope mr. Lander will please us again, soon or later. regards!


Pleiadian7 (6 years ago) Reply

Pretty much agree with this review. Good cast, sort of half-baked script/story and much weirdness without purpose.


cate3819 (3 years ago) Reply

I watched a few minutes...then realized John was Cillian Murphy. Cillian made an expression that took most of his natural expressions away & then he became the shy, awkward & fearful John. I noticed how he let his sholders drop a bit, to give the retiring, shy man appearance. About 2 times he stated aloud that Emma wasn't his wife. That's when I confirmed Emma was his Mother. His Mother was a evil personified when forcing John to sleep with Ellen in a monstrous way. John wants Ellen & Jake to leave Peacock to get them away from his Mother. Yet again Cillian Murphy has done an outstanding acting. It's apparent he truly fleshes out his characters...he works at it & succeeds. Something seeing his blue eyes covered by brown contacts.

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