The Ledge Movie Review: A Lot of Hard Talk and Not a Lot of Follow-through

Sometimes a kammerspielfilm shoots itself in the foot and that's the problem with The Ledge in a nutshell.
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The Ledge (2011) is directed by Matthew Chapman and stars Charlie Hunnam (Gavin), Liv Tyler (Shauna), Patrick Wilson (Joe) and Terrence Howard (Detective Howard).

the_ledgeThe movie starts in a doctor's office where Detective Howard is just being informed that he is sterile and has been all his life, which means that his kids aren't actually his kids. This rather unfortunate turn of events could put a crimp in any guy's day, so it's a little disconcerting to find out that his job for the day is to go talk a jumper off a ledge. On the ledge we find Gavin, a man with a tale to tell and a couple of hours to do it in.

The basic plot, revealed through circular storytelling technique and flashbacks is that Gavin meets Shauna and Joe, a devout Christian couple, who have just moved in a couple of doors down from where Gavin is living with his gay HIV-positive Kabbalah-worshiping friend. But, hang on, it gets worse. Gavin hires Shauna to work a the hotel where he is the managing director and he then proceeds to seduce her to get her away from her scarily fundamentalist husband and oh, wait, it gets even more complicated than that. Gavin's wife has left him after the death of their daughter in a car crash that he kind of blames himself for, and being an atheist he can't expect any kind of solace from pretty lies of his little girl being with the angels now. But, wait, the fun doesn't stop there - Shauna is an ex-drug addict prostitute with abandonment issues concerning the father that was abusive to her as a child. All of this overlaid with a heavy-handed mix of religious bigotry and supposedly introspective and philosophical dialogue about faith in all its shapes and guises.

Take a note - this is not how you do things. I'm sorry. Every little bit of character exposition is done through blatant bland dialogue, and I do mean blatant, as in characters actually saying things like “I was an addict and a prostitute” and no, just no. Liv Tyler acts as if she's a shy preacher's wife, practically virginal and unaccustomed to carnal sin, yet she used to sell herself on a street corner? Really? And Charlie Hunnam's character is supposed to occupy a managerial position? All the while sporting that SOA signature beard and the floppy hair? The harried detective who has just had some of the worst news of his life is sent to talk down a potential suicide and the born-again Joe is so over-the-top zealous that he randomly starts praying and witnessing mid-conversation after which he reveals himself to be a former drug, alcohol and sex addict with sadistic tendencies. And did I mention the gay roommate Chris (Christopher Gorham), who finds a new boyfriend at his Kabbalah temple who he wants to marry, and he is then surprised when they're not welcomed with open arms and, wow, all these people have issues. Every scrap of back-story is revealed in painfully banal language and it's just too much.

I can see what the intention is, this is supposed to be an interesting way to vent some philosophical questions about religion and morality. It' supposed to be a love story. It's supposed to say something like amor vincit omnia, but the problem is I'm not buying a word out of anyone's mouth. The love story is awkward, the discussions are reminiscent of early teens trying to work out the the whole Theodicy problem. The performances are flat or over the top, or sometimes both at the same time; the lighting actually bad enough to make Liv Tyler look frumpy; and I don't believe a single emotion shown me. She winds up tied to a chair in only her underwear with a ball gag in her mouth - and even if you can justify the tying down the rest of that is completely inexplicable. Though I can certainly see the visual appeal of the mise-en-scene.

For me, personally, this is all too on the nose. The potentially interesting ideas are undermined by bad writing, overuse of exposition, lack of depth, and lack of credibility. The neo-noir pretensions and flabby spiritual discussion are not enough to excuse the flat acting and poor follow through. This becomes more pulp fiction bathos than thought-provoking drama. And that's too bad, because the basic premise had promise.

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