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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Blind Picks from Netflix: Bug (2006)

Bug is a love story for the ages. Waitress Agnes (Ashley Judd) and Peter (Michael Shannon) meet, fall for each other and hole up in her dirty hotel room in backwoods Oklahoma. Agnes is lonely and paranoid that her recently paroled ex-husband Jerry (Harry Connick Jr.) is going to come get her. Peter is convinced that the U.S government planted an egg sac in his mouth and that he is infested with "bugs." As the couple becomes more isolated and more dependent upon each other for support, Agnes begins to share his paranoid delusions.

The clinical term for the psychiatric phenomenon seen in Bug is "folie à deux," French for "madness shared by two." According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th Ed., this diagnosis is rare, and it usually occurs when the partner who is very passive takes on the beliefs of the partner who is very dominant. Agnes, still haunted by the kidnapping of her young son, dwells broken and passive in a dingy rented room waiting for her life to pass by. Peter, though clearly insane throughout the film, is undeniably charismatic, and it is easy to see how one could get sucked into his belief system. Peter offers her something she has been waiting for: a system of belief that answers all of her questions. Why was it her son that was taken? Why did she have to pick an abusive man for a husband? We all look for giant cosmic explanations for the hardships we endure. In the case of Bug, the placating expression "everything happens for a reason" begins to take on a whole new meaning.

Bug is based on a stage play by Tracy Letts and was adapted by Letts for the screen. Director William Friedkin sticks with the spatial limitations of stage set, resulting in a claustrophobic film that often feels like a teleplay. Friedkin's use of the camera, however, draws it up out of the realm of the stage. His use of close-ups, angle shots and brilliant lighting (particularly in one sequence filmed only in the light of bug-zappers and aluminum-lined walls) make Bug a dynamic film that is interesting to watch. Friedkin also wisely kept Michael Sheridan, who originated his part on stage, as Peter. Judd, who has done mixed work in the past (for every De-Lovely there's been a High Crimes) is completely convincing as the damaged and desperate Agnes. In short, Bug gets everything right: from the unsettling set design to the authentic performances, it manages to drag itself up out of the realm of the cheesy thriller and establish itself as a perceptive human drama and love story (for what is love if not a shared delusion of sorts?) that just happens to feature a guy pulling his teeth out with pliers. Bug belongs on your queue! Add it now!


Blogger timmytoad said...

i added "bugs" and a bunch of other films to my netflix queue after reading all the posts on this blog...an amazing cinema knowledge basis for one so young!

1:19 PM  

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