Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

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domino harvey
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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#26 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jan 30, 2018 2:34 pm

The opposite: it underperformed everywhere in the south Soderbergh expected locals to like it, and only made money in metropolitan areas

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#27 Post by Ribs » Tue Jan 30, 2018 2:37 pm

That's what they did, though. The entire idea was that most movies are marketed to NY/LA and trickle down, but Soderbergh had the idea they'd see the movie anyway and to target West Virginia specifically because they'd not have heard about it otherwise. The lesson was, somewhat depressingly, that West Virginia just didn't want to see the movie, or they felt condescended to, which is also possible (and Soderbergh claimed to believe). He was actually right that NY/LA/urban areas did still know about and want to see the movie even if it wasn't marketed very heavily. Really its result was absolutely wonderful and the immediate trade response of "what a failure!" "new strategy DOA" just felt like studio wheel-spinning because it *does* posit that they spend too much on marketing.

I assume this will have a radically different approach (not because of failure, just because the film calls for something different), not based on specifically geographic targeting but on a particular age demo (maybe 18-25?) which'll be interesting.

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#28 Post by swo17 » Tue Jan 30, 2018 2:40 pm

I'm personally baffled by all the user reviews I've read that Logan Lucky was "Hollywood making fun of us Southerners." I thought it was a very benevolent portrayal of the working class, with its aims set only against those authority figures that would hold them down. That, and it was just a really fresh feeling film.

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#29 Post by knives » Tue Jan 30, 2018 2:43 pm

Isn't Soderbergh from Atlanta originally?

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#30 Post by Ribs » Tue Jan 30, 2018 2:47 pm

I think it's just a case that these people from these places feel how they feel, and we should accept that. As much as liberal northeasterners can claim it's actually a deeply sympathetic, endearing depiction of the south, clearly it just did not read that way to those watching it. It's one of my favorite films of last year (and I'm actually surprised by the relative scarcity of its appearance on top 10 lists), I definitely think it's not trying to condescend to them, but they definitely felt like it was, and I can't begrudge them that.

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#31 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Jan 30, 2018 4:01 pm

You mean Soderbergh's Atlanta roots didn't make him pass with the NASCAR crowd? But he's so folksy!

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#32 Post by knives » Tue Jan 30, 2018 4:09 pm

Hey, Nascar is a northern pastime. Football is much more the pass time of choice down south.

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#33 Post by Big Ben » Tue Jan 30, 2018 6:43 pm

Racing cars is a pastime here in Montana too. Except these are the absolute worst condition cars you could be racing in and the drunkest crowd possible. This stereotype that only the south likes watching things go vroom in a fancy setting is just silly.

More to the point though jumping off my point about cars. I trust that Soderbergh will do something interesting with this because I don't see him making a standard "Am I crazy picture?" I've only seen Claire Foy in Wolf Hall though and she had to be pretty restrained there right up until the end so I'm excited to see what she can do with this material and shooting style.

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#34 Post by Oedipax » Tue Jan 30, 2018 9:52 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:The aspect ratio could be for a number of different reasons, including compensating for the fact that the edges didn't turn out as well as the rest of the frame.
And some of these shots look a fair amount wider than the iPhone's standard lens (equivalent to about a 50mm lens on a Super 35 film camera). It could very well be he's using a wide angle adapter that either vignettes the 16x9 edges completely or at any rate softens them too much.

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#35 Post by Leo Realism » Wed Jan 31, 2018 2:13 am

1.60:1 is another way of noting 16:10, which is the aspect ratio of Apple's laptop displays. How's that for product placement? Or am I just being paranoid?

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#36 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Jan 31, 2018 12:02 pm

Insanely (unsanely?) paranoid.

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#37 Post by djproject » Wed Jan 31, 2018 1:38 pm

knives wrote:Isn't Soderbergh from Atlanta originally?
Born there, but also grew up in Charlottesville, VA and Baton Rouge, LA (during childhood and adolescence respectively)

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#38 Post by Lost Highway » Thu Feb 22, 2018 2:01 pm

I saw this today and quite enjoyed it. It’s both a schlocky thriller with a plot along the lines of Shock Corridor and very much a film of now in terms of issues raised by the #MeToo movement. Of Soderbergh’s films, it’s the most closely related to Side Effects. That’s my favourite film of his, so I was probably more predisposed to like it then some. I saw this at the Berlinale in a huge auditorium and on leaving I got the feeling many people hated this. By the second half it becomes a fairly conventional horror film and it goes on for a little too long. But there is at least one great idea in this and in the end it’s Soderbergh having fun, trying his hand at a horror B-movie. That’s why he shot it the way he did, fast and on the cheap so not too many expectations are placed on it. Entertaining as I found it, it’s a minor film and I’m not sure what this is doing in the main competition.

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#39 Post by whaleallright » Fri Feb 23, 2018 8:31 pm

In re. Logan Lucky:
I think it's just a case that these people from these places feel how they feel, and we should accept that.
There are lots of "people" everywhere, and I see no evidence that southerners or Appalachians or whomever were uniquely poorly disposed to this film. You can always find a few quotes from people who felt condescended to, and others who didn't, and many others who never heard about the film or just didn't give a shit. (What's more, a film only has to bring in a small fraction of people in a given market to do well there. Logan Lucky didn't need to attract the "working class" crowd in WV; there are plenty of upper-middle-class folk there, more than enough to fill a few theater auditoriums in any case. Hell, you could fill up an auditorium in WV just with college students and professors if you wanted to, in or outside of Morgantown.)

Bottom line is that the theatrical market is challenging for any "adult" film that isn't a franchise picture, esp. one without a major star. I doubt Logan Lucky's BO failure (not failure overall, since it did make its money back through streaming rights etc.) really has much to tell us about the virtues of marketing, what does and doesn't do well in Appalachia, etc. etc. It's just one case.

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#40 Post by Ribs » Fri Feb 23, 2018 11:55 pm

OK, but Steven Soderbergh led the campaign himself and that they likely felt condescnded to was one of his key takeaways. I didn't just pull this out of thin air. Again, the trades had it out for the movie from the off due to its nonconventional release pattern; $30m was not the kind of return it would have gotten with a traditional studio release, but almost certainly however much more it would have made would have been a percentage of the considerably higher marketing cost.

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#41 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Mar 23, 2018 11:36 am

I think I see what Soderbergh was going for with Unsane, especially in terms of his genre references, but as far as I'm concerned this is the biggest failure of any of his experiments that I've seen.
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The biggest problem here is the script, which is so patently unbelievable and inept that I spent 40 minutes talking it over in the parking lot afterward trying to find some hidden substance to it - mostly centering around trying to justify having seen a movie in which Claire Foy's character really is insane the entire time and much of what we see is totally unreliable - but I completely failed to manufacture a way to make an elegant puzzle box out of the cheap Happy Meal toy we're given. The screenplay's inherent absurdity is amplified by the fact that it gives up the is she or isn't she conceit far too early in the film, removing the major source of tension and replacing it with mediocre-to-bad horror film tropes that over and over again strain credulity while also dumbing down to follow the easiest paths to resolution. Sure, there's some timely mining of the thematic territory around power dynamics, gaslighting, and surviving abuse, but none of it is is more than superficial, and even potentially undermined by the final scene. I'll give Soderbergh credit for making the first 20-30 minutes credibly unnerving, but once he allows the audience to find their balance, the remainder of the film is frustratingly simple-minded and repetitive.

The iPhone element starts off promisingly, with some handsomely composed wide shots from voyeuristic vantage points that invoke similar shots from Halloween, but as the film goes on and its confines become more and more claustrophobic, the lack of options for composition, lighting, and movement make the limitations of the filming method more and more glaringly distracting, to the point that
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the scenes in the rubber room are actively ugly, bordering on amateurish, which is just so antithetical to what I've come to expect from Soderbergh's work that I'm baffled that he couldn't find a way to either do more with what he had or at the very least limit the amount of time the film spends in that environment.
Claire Foy and Jay Pharoah are fine, and Juno Temple appropriately plays to the cheap seats, but the harsh exposure of the iPhone does no favors to much of the rest of the supporting cast as they try to make some unfortunate dialogue and plot mechanics work.
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There's also a pretty weak Matt Damon cameo that doesn't particularly add anything except a cheap buzz of recognition in a scene that otherwise is twice as long and as on the nose as it needs to be to get its point across.
Ultimately, I'm not disappointed I saw this, as there's certainly plenty to discuss about it individually and in the context of Soderbergh's larger body of work, but extremely disappointed that this joins Ocean's Twelve as the only of his films I've seen that I unequivocally dislike. That the majority of the critical response to this has been positive is either a sign that I am actually (or should be) scratching this out with my fingernails on the walls of a psychiatric institution, or that Soderbergh has built up so much goodwill that the assumption that he always knows what he's doing is overtaking any clear-eyed evaluation.

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#42 Post by Lost Highway » Fri Mar 23, 2018 12:08 pm

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I liked that it didn‘t drag out the “is she/isn’t she insane” game till late on, as that’s a conceit which I usually find irritating. Structurally that makes it like Vertigo which springs a surprise by revealing the conspiracy early.

I think there have been many more horror films dealing with insanity over the last few decades where everything turns out to have either happened in the protagonists mind or where the film stays ambiguous. To me it was a pleasant surprise that every crazy claim that gets her committed turns out to be true.

I was probably a lot more willing to go with the concept of this being Soderbergh‘s take on a Hammer/William Castle Diabolique knock off which was a genre of it’s own in the 60s and early 70s. I think that works for the current discussion about abuse and gaslighting.

I wasn't bothered that the plot didn’t make sense in terms of plausibility, it makes sense in terms of genre and how that is linked to current hot button issues. I don’t think this is a great film, but there is something about Soderbergh embracing his schlocky side which I enjoyed. My favourite movie of his is Side Effects and this is the closest to it among his films.
Last edited by Lost Highway on Fri Mar 23, 2018 12:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#43 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Mar 23, 2018 12:33 pm

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I don't disagree that the "It was all in his/her mind!" trope is often poorly done, but the question of whether (or to what degree) we were dealing with an unreliable protagonist or an exploitative institution was at least keeping my attention; the fact that the film decides to drop any pretense of maintaining that uncertainty and then fully investigate neither of those angles, instead devoting its remaining energy almost exclusively to the ludicrous stalker plot just exacerbated my frustration. I think a Vertigo-style early reveal could have worked if the sole antagonist had been the mental hospital and the Kafka-esque legal/medical morass that binds her there, and if the focus had been her struggle to keep a grip on her sanity and stability in that trap as a survivor suffering from paranoia and post-traumatic stress. When her actual stalker became the main source of conflict, personifying as an immediate threat what until then had been more effective as lingering trauma, it became impossible for me to stay invested.

I didn't touch on this much above, but I'm torn on whether the recurrence of her hallucination/PTSD in the final scene - with nearly fatal consequences - reinforces or undermines what the film had seemed to say regarding the type of trauma she'd suffered and the need to hear/believe survivors; curious to hear what you think, as it sounds like that thematic element was more resonant for you.

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#44 Post by Lost Highway » Fri Mar 23, 2018 12:57 pm

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I thought the end implied that the experience which was supposed to heal her had driven her slightly insane, but ultimately it was another bow to horror convention. A final, ironic sting in the tail. It’s already a few weeks that I saw the film and what I remember most is that for some reason the end reminded me of House of Games.

What’s more important is that her stalker being real is central to the whole issue of gaslighting and not believing harrassed or abused women. I take your point that it becomes a little tiresome, I didn’t stay entirely invested in that aspect either. The villain could have been more compelling but then his very ordinariness was the point I suppose.

On a side note, I enjoyed the developing relationship and interplay between Claire Foy and Jay Pharoah and really ended up rooting for them. I was upset when he got killed.

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#45 Post by Ribs » Fri Mar 23, 2018 2:01 pm

I think this is terrific; but mostly I’m so surprised at how well I thought the photography worked. Soderbergh’s obviously got a great talent for it but you do actually forget it after a while and just enjoy it. I was impressed by the sharpness in the overall image that I feared would be a little unfocused based on my experience with an iPhone camera. I’m less certain it will work well for the scope aspect ratio of High Flying Bird but within this smaller scale I thought it went swimmingly.
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I don’t really think the movie is actually concerned with whether or not she’s insane: the title states she isn’t. I love that, despite Pharoah’s reporting demonstrating systematic abuse of some kind, it’s the Stalker character’s actions that the facility was none the wiser to that brings them down. Presumably because of the dead bodies they weren’t really responsible for they’ll be shut down; the actual systematic abuse of power didn’t bring them to that point.

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#46 Post by The Narrator Returns » Fri Mar 23, 2018 4:39 pm

I really liked this too.
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I knew going in that she wasn't really insane from reading some of the reviews, which really helped in getting from the start what Soderbergh is going for here, especially when Sawyer starts behaving really violently and you can't easily write it off as being the actions of a "crazy" person. And Joshua Leonard's character is a really interesting addition to Soderbergh's increasing run of characters who use the evils of capitalism and corporations for their own nefarious purposes; Rooney Mara in Side Effects seems perfectly reasonable in her scheming compared to him!
Also, I adored the tiny in-joke of Full Frontal playing on the clinic's TV in one scene, as well as
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the reprise of Ocean's Twelve's final shot at the very end.

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#47 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Mar 23, 2018 5:35 pm

Ribs wrote:
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I don’t really think the movie is actually concerned with whether or not she’s insane: the title states she isn’t.
I'm pretty sure both of these assertions are unsensical.

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#48 Post by mfunk9786 » Sat Mar 24, 2018 5:08 pm

This was the most frightening film I’ve ever seen, period. Your mileage may [will] vary on such a marker, of course, but I am genuinely uncomfortable even discussing this until I can be sure it’s not going to make me feel more upset.

[How’s that for a sales pitch, by the way? Pay me, Steve.]

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#49 Post by DarkImbecile » Sat Mar 24, 2018 5:28 pm

I feel like all you people are trying to gaslight me.

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Re: Unsane (Steven Soderbergh, 2018)

#50 Post by mfunk9786 » Sat Mar 24, 2018 7:45 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:This was the most frightening film I’ve ever seen, period. Your mileage may [will] vary on such a marker, of course, but I am genuinely uncomfortable even discussing this until I can be sure it’s not going to make me feel more upset.

[How’s that for a sales pitch, by the way? Pay me, Steve.]
Okay, here goes nothing.

Disclaimer: I didn't know anything about the plot of this film going in aside from the trailer:
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There was a moment when watching Unsane that I went from compelled to deeply disturbed, terrified, and even... mournful in a way that it is still difficult to describe. It is 'the Matt Damon cameo,' the scene following our recap of Sawyer's experience with having been stalked in Boston and having it explained to her in no uncertain terms that her ability to feel a general sense of personal safety is over as of now, due to no fault, no missteps, no weaknesses, no character flaws of her own. It is, in my view, an incredibly sad moment that is not at all uplifted by the recognizable acting talent employed.

It is when Unsane broke me.

From that point, the film instilled a level of terror that made running out of the theater and never thinking about this film again seem like a reasonable option. It is going to give me nightmares, that much is guaranteed. But why? I've seen films depicting stalking before. I've seen films about people being convinced that they are crazy - either by family members, doctors, sinister influences, or themselves. I've seen brilliant endings, like this one, wisely borrowed from Misery. I've seen Shock Corridor. So what made Unsane any different? Why did I feel as if I might burst into tears at any moment during its final act; why did I actually burst into tears the moment I realized it was over and I could take a full breath? Why was it so scary to me? It's not easy to say.

One idea could be the singular look of the film. The angles and lenses used in tandem with the unsettlingly... off iPhone cameras are jarring. Faces appear different than they do in other films. Spaces do too - the 'blue room' later in the film takes something that's a relatively banal part of any mental hospital and turns it into a Lynchian hellhole. The use of night vision in David's trunk is going to haunt me for as long as The Silence of the Lambs' did, if not longer. Even visiting rooms and offices take on a quality of utter hopelessness.

Perhaps it's the screenplay, by the writers of such modern classics as Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector and Just My Luck, two other films that could fill any viewer with despair and dread. This one bears no resemblance to that kind of for-hire bullshit - it is relentlessly direct and empathetic and raw in a way that is totally simpatico with the way Soderbergh approaches it. There are plotholes and logic miscues and some clunky dialogue and it is still, in my view, without fault.

Maybe it's just me. The cocktail of buttons that were pushed by this film unlocked a rapt fear that I didn't know I had in me for a theatrical viewing experience anymore. Somehow it all comes back to that aforementioned post-restraining order scene. It all comes back to my horror over the Charles Cullen murders, that likely opened the door up just enough to this scenario that it worked for me hook, line, and sinker. It all comes back to my perhaps never completely considering the plight of a stalking victim until today, or the plight of someone who is being gaslit.
But I think it might just come back to great filmmaking. This is a great, great film.

Now you can all go back to talking about how crummy it is.

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