It should probably tell the viewer something that Twixt - a film written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Val Kilmer, Elle Fanning, and Bruce Dern - was only shown in theaters at festivals before going straight to video. Yeah, a movie with those names behind it that can't get a nationwide release is not going to be any good. Still, this reviewer couldn't help but get his hopes up.
Coppola says the idea for the film came to him in a drunken dream in Istanbul. Before the dream could end, the call to prayer woke him and he struggled to go back to sleep to finish the dream, but of course it was lost. This dream informs the film not only in its plot but in that theme of searching for an ending and causing much of the film to occur within dream sequences.
Kilmer plays Hall Baltimore, a mystery writer in decline who comes to a small, strange town for a book signing. The fact that the town has no book store and that he must set up his table in a hardware store tells us plenty about both the town and Hall's scouting abilities. Tired of writing two-bit ghost stories, Hall wants to go back to the promise of his youth and start writing real books. But between fighting with his wife and copious amounts of drinks, he never gets far.
He meets Bruce Dern's Sheriff Bobby LaGrange who shows Hall the corpse of a young girl with a stake still dug directly into her heart. The Sheriff thinks that this will make a great story the two of them could write. Initially, Hall shrugs him off but that night he dreams of Virginia (Fanning), the ghost of one of a dozen children murdered many decades ago. Awake, Hall decides to stay in the town and look into the murder with LaGrange.
There's a lot of arguments with Hall's agent (David Paymer) and his wife (Joanne Whalley) via Skype which push Hall into more drinking and writer's block. It is only in his dreams that he has a true sense of himself and it is there that he seems to get a handle on both his story and the murder mystery. It is also in his dreams where he meets Edgar Allan Poe, who acts as sort of a spirit guide and helps Hall find himself.
There are flashbacks to the murder of the children, strange conversations with Virginia, and much ado about some mysterious kids who part across the lake. None of it makes much sense and there are plot holes a-plenty. Kilmer is a fine actor but the script doesn't give him much to do other than be drunk and act confuse. Bruce Dern acts pretty much like he always does - frenetically weird - and Fanning does a fine job playing her role like a Lost Girl out of Neverland.
The dream sequences are visually striking and absolutely gorgeous. The colors and set design really pop on the Blu-ray and the movie is worth seeing for the visuals alone. Coppola still knows how to shoot a beautiful film; it's just too bad he's forgotten how to write one.
The only extra on the Blu-ray is a short documentary shot by his granddaughter Gia. In it, we see how laid back the production was. We see Coppola mostly sitting back enjoying what's going on, having multiple conversations at once giving instructions on exactly how he wants to the scenes to be shot but never appearing all that involved in the proceedings. It is a testament to what a genius he truly is that he can create such a wonderfully made film while still looking like he'd rather be at home taking a nap.
Cinema Sentries is giving away a Twixt Blu-ray. Find out how to enter the contest.