Dragonfly is a familiar story in film, a love so strong that when a spouse dies the one left behind cannot accept the loss. Often this is approached in a more supernatural manner, although dead they are still in some contact with each other.
It’s a familiar story in film, a love so strong that when a spouse dies the one left behind cannot accept the loss. Often this is approached in a more supernatural manner, although dead they are still in some contact with each other. Such is the case with Dragonfly.
Kevin Costner plays Dr. Joe Darrow, the head of emergency services at a large hostpital. His wife Emma (Susanna Thompson) was a pediatric oncologist that left for Venezuela to help a remote tribe. Of course she dies in the first five minutes of Dragonfly and Joe risks his career to reconnect with her. Similar themes have been explored in such films as Ghost and the Sixth Sense but at least there everything held together and there was some novel variations. Here.
Dragonfly flows with difficulty. It would have helped with there was a more palpable sense of imamate danger. Instead Joe’s greatest problem in the first three quarters of the film is getting in trouble with the stoic hospital administrator (Joe Morton) and getting strange looks from his next-door neighbor (Kathy Bates). Only the very end brings a real sense of danger. It’s all right for many of the characters in Dragonfly to be in a near death state but this should be avoided with the plot. It would have helped if the audience were shown a little more of the life the couple shared prior to Emma’s death. Of course we sympathize with her, she died while helping the less fortunate, but I didn’t feel an emotional connection to Joe. From the first we see him deep in his grief. We even see him refusing to treat an attempted suicide stating, "We are only interested in helping those that want to live".
For Dragonfly to work we have to care about Joe yet he comes off either as callous or obsessed. The clues given to Joe by the near dead are too ambiguous. Things like a wavy cross and "inside the rainbow" don’t connect at all until a very forced scene that leads to the end of the film. After all, that is what made the Six Sense, the fact that you could watch the film over and over and see the connection between the clues to the truth.
Most audiences of this genre film want to be able to piece the puzzle together during the film and either be completely surprised or satisfied with their deductive abilities. Here, we just get to sit by and watch, detached from the emotional center of the film. The title of Dragonfly comes from the birthmark on Emma’s shoulder in the shape of a dragonfly, a trait she shared with others in her family. Of course we see dragonfly paperweights moving about and dragonflies tracing the wavy cross on the windows but once again, the connection is far too tenuous.
Kevin Costner is capable of displaying emotion, well almost. He has made a career playing rather stiff characters but with films like Thirteen Days and No Way Out under his belt he can come across as a man holding in what he feels. Here, his grief seems too forced, perhaps because of the lack of background for his character. Some of the ancillary characters display a lot more depth in their roles. Kathy Bates provides some genuine empathy for the plight of her friend. She is concerned and willing to help. Her role is that of a lesbian lawyer but here subtitle works. She mentions her deceased companion Hannah and that she is a lawyer but such exposition came across as natural. Ron Rifkin as a friend of Joe’s and fellow doctor also plays more to reality and believability. What is missing here is a bit of comic relief to break things up a bit and give the audience some opportunity to switch emotional gears. As with the story the interaction of the cast doesn’t seem to mesh. It’s a bad sign when the dead character has the best part.
Tom Shadyac was at the helm of Dragonfly. His usual venue is the comedy having been responsible for such films as "Liar,Liar", "The Nutty Professor (Murphy version)", "Patch Adams" and "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective". There a disjointed plot did not make such a negative impact on the audience. You are there to laugh and he provided the laughs. Here, his job was to provide a story that holds your attention and performances that emotionally involve the audience. The pacing was too slow to move Dragonfly along. The cinematography was excellent I have to admit. There is a very nice interaction between light and shadow without the current trend of pushing the color palette or the strange use of filters. Shadyac also knows how to use the audio to excellent advantage.
The surround sound comes alive (no pun intended) to fill the room with ambient affects things that go bump in the night. Its natural for a director to want to spread his wings into other types of films but Shadyac is the master of the guilty pleasure comedy and might wish to consider his continuation in this aspect of film. Apparently Dragonfly was written with Harrison Ford in mind but Ford passed to take some time off from movies. After much consideration I still cannot see this improving Dragonfly.
This Dragonfly disc is well done. The audio is presented in both Dolby 5.1 and DTS. There is very little difference between the two sound tracks. Both use the sub woofer effectively and as mentioned above the rear speakers are present throughout much of Dragonfly. The video is excellent, a crisp picture with a well balanced saturation of color. The commentary track gives Shadyac a platform to explain his transition to drama and how he pieced the film together. There is also the ever-present ‘making of’ featurette and some deleted scenes to round things out. The film has its moments; the ending was a nice twist although we have seen it before. Still, you might consider viewing Sixth Sense again instead.Review by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com
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