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Posts Tagged ‘Elephant Song’
Bruce Greenwood is a busy actor who has spent much of the last year on set, away from his Los Angeles home.
“Yesterday I found myself reading a script,” he says of a rare day off. “I was lying on the coach and I put the script down and fell asleep in the sun. I woke up an hour later and said to my wife, ‘We’re home. I’m lying on the coach. I could get up and make tea but I don’t have to. My bag is not packed.’”
When he isn’t on set the actor, best known as Christopher Pike in the rebooted Star Trek series, occupies himself in the kitchen.
“I’m baking bread,” he says. “It’s my new thing. I’m making at least a couple of baguettes a day. Usually I make three in a batch, give two to the neighbours and force the other one on my wife.”
In the new psychological thriller Elephant Song—just one of four movies he has in the pipeline—Greenwood as hospital chief of staff Dr. Toby Green is lured into a cat and mouse game with Michael, a long time patient played by Xavier Dolan, who may know the whereabouts of a missing doctor.
Greenwood hadn’t met his co-star and Dolan wanted to keep it that way—at least until they shot their first scene.
“He had a great idea early on which serves to illustrate how willing he is to experiment,” says Greenwood. “He decided that when the two characters meet in the film for the first time it might be interesting that, as actors, we were meeting for the first time while the cameras were rolling. I kind of thought, ‘Well, that’s a bit of extra lifting I don’t think is really necessary.’ But he really wanted to try it so I said, ‘OK.’ When he walked into the room all this stuff started pouring through my system that I couldn’t have anticipated. It turned out to be a great idea.”
Greenwood has been so busy, he had to rely on journalists to refresh his memory about Elephant Song, a movie he shot almost two years ago.
“It is one of those things where if you are doing ten interviews in a row, the first two interviewers get the short end of the stick because during the interviews you’re reminded of what the film was about. By the third interview, twenty minutes in, you remember what it was about the film that excited you and interested you and challenged you. Today after the first couple of interviews I hung up the phone and thought, ‘God, those poor people must think I’m an idiot.’”
Set in1966, Bruce Greenwood is Dr. Toby Green, chief of staff in a mental hospital investigating the mysterious disappearance of psychiatrist Dr. Lawrence (Colm Feore). Lawrence vanished after an appointment with Michael (Xavier Dolan), a long time patient who is believed to know the location of the missing doctor. Despite warnings from Nurse Susan Peterson (Catherine Keener), Green’s ex-wife and the health care worker closest to Michael, that the patient is a compulsive fantasist, Green dives into a cat and mouse game with the troubled young man.
“Elephant Song” is long on intrigue but short on satisfaction.
In his conversations with Green, Michael is meant to be a Hannibal Lecter Jr.—a comparison reinforced by Dolan’s slavish Anthony Hopkins impression and, “quid pro quo,” reference—an expert manipulator one step ahead of the doctor. Trouble is, his mannered delivery is artificial and most of his revelations are red herrings. His revelations feel simply like plot points to keep the action moving, without ever getting us much closer to the heart of the mystery. Later his more natural interactions with Peterson are a welcome relief from the affectation of his scenes with Green.
Greenwood and Keener do good work here, even though it strains credulity that Michael could hold such sway over seasoned pros like Green and Peterson.
“Elephant Song” is essentially a two-hander broken up with flashbacks, but director Charles Biname skilfully builds drama and tension throughout. It’s a shame that there is no payoff before the end credits roll.