The Piano

The Piano ★★½

Real admirable for its aesthetic loveliness (especially the score, good golly!), Hunter's really incredible lead performance (though I'm not very big on Paquin, I'm sad to say), this simmering crushing sensation the movie is pregnant with, and the aspiration of women's ability to control their own lives and tell their own stories it portrays, even as what they steer that ship toward sometimes shifts, it nonetheless finds itself losing me in the details, somewhat.

I totally respect the idea of Hunter coming to love Keitel, at least as long as that's in the kind of assured hands Campion provides, but it doesn't really seem to come out of any real feeling on her character's behalf (though Hunter can sell it in shades). Paquin's character, for as much as she ultimately kinda mucks around with the control Hunter does have in her very locked-down life, doesn't seem to connect to those themes in any particular way, the relationship between them ultimately remaining in kind fairly unexplored. There's a sense, too, that I do feel like the movie would have best expressed itself through Hunter's potential paramours being simply not actively to her liking, rather than physically violent and sexually aggressive. It's a hard stance to come to in some ways, because I respect the decision to really not let men's role in how women's agency is expressed off the hook, but it feels to me as though it externalizes a distaste that would have been more powerful as pure internal apathy.

I think, perhaps, all of these feelings are united under a common umbrella: I think there's a degree to which the Piano serves itself as a plot first, above things like its characters and its themes. Toward the middle I popped on the Wikipedia page for the movie and was shocked to find that, according to the plot synopsis, about 2/3 or so of the narrative beats in the movie had yet to come. I've mentioned it a couple other times recently, speaking on Charade for sure and one other I don't quite recall (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang? I think maybe), but I rarely come to movies with the plot as a major consideration, much less ~the~ major consideration, so there's a degree to which I do think this movie isn't really especially pitched for me. The amount of meat here, though, most fascinatingly in how Hunter's character shifts (a word I intentionally use over "grows," which I feel like implies moving toward a better version of themselves or even just a version they prefer; here it's more lateral and importantly so), seems to belie that it could have taken a more thematic approach. Ultimately, I end up conflicted by how that potential and its actuality unmesh.

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