Before Juno and Hard Candy, Ellen page grabbed the attention of directors around the world with her performance in Mouth To Mouth. She shows maturity, a strong will, and intelligence- everything her character, and the film does not. Mouth to Mouth tries to ask some difficult questions, but ultimately fails thanks to a poor script, and a bunch of naive and unlikeable characters.
Mouth To Mouth sounds interesting at first- a young girl disillusioned with life goes off round Europe on a personal quest, innocently joins a group of like-minded souls who want to help homeless kids, but before long realises that she has become part of a sinister cult whose leader only wants to exploit those beneath him.
The problems begin soon into the film- if Sherry sees herself as an intelligent, rebellious woman then it is unlikely she would be drawn into such an obvious group of idiots. The only answer must be that she is not as intelligent as she thinks she is. The group is utterly unconvincing, and surely only someone with no future, no present would even breathe near them. They spout the same tired cliches and slogans which have no place in the real world, and a simple look at some of the members would make you gladly pass by on the other side. The sad fact remains that there are cults like this throughout the world, and enough sad, lonely, angry kids to fall for their tricks. However, the cults of the real world are much more inviting, seductive, clever, and damaging than SPARK.
Harry- Cult Leader, and Tiger- second in command, are not remotely charismatic. They might be pretty, to some, but their words, slogans, thoughts, may as well have been written by an angry 13 year old whose just been locked in their bedroom for playing Eminem too loudly. No substance, not even any style. Inevitably Harry uses the girls in the group for sex, and then forces his own disgust, weakness, and guilt onto them. Sherry eventually wakes up and realises she must get out. However, thanks to the one good twist of the film- her mother, also disillusioned, has followed her, and may not be so easy to convince. The introduction of Sherry’s mother is one of the better points of the film, although like most of the characters she is irratating and unlikeable. However, it does lead the audience to question her motives- has she come to rescue Sherry? Is she simply pretending to enjoy life in the cult to push Sherry out of her apathetic gloom, or is she genuinely at home?
The film does have other qualities- some of the cinematography is good, there is a strong mood of gloom which continues throughout the film, and there are a few stand-out, if not as shocking as they think they are scenes. The sudden death of Manson manages to be powerful, even though none of the characters involved are particularly likeable, and the death of another character towards the end in The Pit, is handled pretty well. If only these weren’t countered by silly, pseudo artistic dance scenes, and an annoying soundtrack.
Without Page, this would have been scored lower. As much as the director would like to think that this is he film, Page steals the show. She makes it enjoyable rather than tedious. It takes a true talent to make a character no-one would want to watch, watchable. This is just another notch on Page’s growing CV, although Alison Murray- now that she has got this out of her system may have grown enough as a writer and director to make something better. The films ends with most questions left open for discussion, but the final thought may be this- like other rebellious kids in the real world taken in by cults, brainwashing, and extreme religious fundamentalism, the only thing Sherry should be rebelling against, is herself.
As always, leave your thoughts on the movie- what did you make of this early Page effort?