There is a classic charm I like about film noir. It is always a welcome treat to see a current film try to recreate those stylish Hollywood crime dramas from the 1940s and 1950s. I was excited to see that there is a new film out in cinemas this week that does just that, with a plot based on a 1954 novel by Patricia Highsmith entitled "The Blunderer". Highsmith is famous for her psychological thriller novels "Strangers on a Train" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley," both of which had also been made into films as well.
Walter Stackhouse is a successful architect by day. However, by night, he takes to his typewriter to churn out crime novels. His beautiful but icy wife Clara is beset with psychological problems, so he takes a fancy with a pretty young singer, Ellie. When he was researching about a certain unsolved murder at a roadside diner, he gets implicated into the investigation of the case led by the relentless Detective Lawrence Corby.
From the very first scene, I was already admiring the crisp cinematography with all those rich colors. The wonderful period production design certainly brought us back to the 1950s, with those vintage cars, ornate building architecture and meticulous classy interior design. The costume design is so rich in classy details, particularly the costumes of Jessica Biel as Clara. Her winter coat with floral accents was a particular beauty.
The acting style of the cast was straight out of one of those classic noir films. Patrick Wilson's character Walter could have been played by William Holden or Joseph Cotten. Jessica Biel's role Clara could have been played by Barbara Stanwyck or Ava Gardner. I can totally see Lauren Bacall in Haley Bennett's amorous role of Ellie and Edward G. Robinson in the suspicious role of Eddie Marsan's character, Mr. Kimmel. Vincent Kartheiser's role Detective Corby could have been better played by someone more like Robert Mitchum or Glenn Ford.
Stylistically, all the technical aspects were in perfect place. The first two acts of the film were very engaging as told mostly from Walter's point of view of the story. I was totally engrossed in the Walter's story -- his avocation as a pulp writer and amateur sleuth, as well as his progressively worsening relationship with his wife. And then, the third act happened, and the neat house of cards built up to that point all came tumbling down in a sorry mess.
I wonder if the writer Susan Boyd could no longer write herself logically out of the intricate plot variation she had cooked up in her adaptation, but I was so sorry that third act seemed to have been so haphazardly written and executed. I went away feeling very disappointed at the nixed opportunity of director Andy Goddard to create a more memorable modern noir. With all the great elements it had in its favor, this definitely could have been a much better film than the final product that we saw onscreen. 5/10.