Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Brin Hill Directs Joss Whedon’s Latest Unfulfilled Concept Film: In Your Eyes.

The Good: Well directed, Decent concept, Interesting characters
The Bad: Unremarkable performances, Predictable plot
The Basics: Joss Whedon’s script for In Your Eyes is an interesting concept, executed erratically under the direction of Brin Hill.

There is a special form of celebrity for writer/directors reached when whatever project they are even marginally associated with is attributed to them. This phenomenon was made very evident when District 9 (reviewed here!) touted Peter Jackson’s participation in the project and Cloverfield (reviewed here!) built much of its hype on the name J.J. Abrams (despite his very limited participation in the film’s creation). The latest cinematic work where the project’s director is being largely overlooked is the Joss Whedon-written film In Your Eyes.

To be fair to Joss Whedon, even though In Your Eyes is not a Mutant Enemy Production and Whedon did not direct the movie, he was both the writer and executive producer of the work. Director Brin Hill has been virtually neglected in the headlines about In Your Eyes, probably with the hope that Joss Whedon’s fanbase will download the work based on name power alone. “Download” is the right word: In Your Eyes is being released as a video on demand work, much like Cheap Thrills (reviewed here!) and Veronica Mars (reviewed here!) were earlier this year. In Your Eyes does not appear to be getting a cinematic release, which does make it an exception to the dual-release model by other v.o.d. releases this year. Sadly, In Your Eyes is not one of Joss Whedon’s best scripts and director Brin Hill does his best with Whedon’s words as he can.

For those who love the works of Joss Whedon, In Your Eyes is a rare miss by the writer; it’s an interesting idea executed in the least imaginative way possible. In Your Eyes lacks Whedon’s trademark wit and charm, but is heavy on character (as one might expect) . The romantic drama features predictably tormented characters , but feels much more like a project Whedon might have written back in high school and let sit in a drawer for years before it was unearthed than something truly fresh and new by Joss Whedon.

Opening with Dylan and Rebecca as children, hundreds of miles apart, Rebecca resolves to go down a hill on her sled. When she hits a tree, Dylan is violently knocked from his desk in school and falls unconscious. Twenty years later, Dylan is out on parole for a burglary he and some friends did, being harassed by his parole officer and Rebecca is being dragged to dinner parties by her husband, who seems largely uninterested in her. One night while Dylan is out at a bar, he gets smacked by a drunk with a pool cue and across the country, Rebecca is violently thrown to the ground while at a dinner party. The next day, Dylan is frantically driving to work while Rebecca is out shopping for underwear, Rebecca nearly gets Dillon into an accident. When Dylan gets to the side of the road and Rebecca finds a doorway in which to sit, the two begin talking to one another aloud and they figure out that they are both real.

From New Mexico, Dylan begins to talk with Rebecca outloud – which she hears in Exeter, New Hampshire. Dylan helps Rebecca not get scammed by a car repairman and Rebecca helps Dylan land a date with Donna. But as Rebecca is seen talking to herself more and more frequently, her doctor husband Phillip becomes deeply concerned about her. He tries to get schizophrenic expert Dr. Maynard to evaluate Rebecca and while Dylan starts to turn his life around (by rejecting his criminal friends), Rebecca finds herself committed to a mental institution. Dylan will risk his freedom to give Rebecca hers when their out-of-body relationship with one another leads to a predictable attachment that they have waited their entire life to understand.

In Your Eyes is a pretty audacious idea: two people live their whole lives with a faint connection that allows them to see through one another’s eyes until they hit a point when they develop a deeper and more consistent connection. That leads the two of them into an emotionally complicated relationship. Good concept. Unfortunately, the elements within that concept are a pretty hackneyed combination. Rebecca is in a loveless marriage, Dylan is a loner who has had a number of problems, but is just on the cusp of turning things around. The film bounces between the realism of the Dylan’s struggle to stay clean in his parole officer’s eyes and Rebecca’s husband reasonably leaps to the idea that she is mentally ill and the fantastic element of Dylan and Rebecca communicating “psychically” (it’s literally verbally, just across incredible distances). The more fantastic element of In Your Eyes is how Rebecca has a troubled marriage that she refuses to abandon – even after her rigorous psychoanalysis of why she chose Phillip – and claims to want to save, but refuses to tell her husband the truth to. The suspension of disbelief comes more from the problems with the realistic elements than the fantastic ones.

Despite not having a high level of diction in any of his other scenes, Dylan actually uses bigger words when he meets Donna. Donna is played as a hick who does not seem at all worthy of the attention of Dylan after he actually starts to become more articulate. On the flipside, Rebecca’s entire dilemma could have been easily solved by being honest with Phillip. If Rebecca and Phillip had a real conversation about the connection Rebecca and Dylan share and Phillip and Dr. Maynard accompanied the two to a meeting, her entire conflict would have been resolved.

But the film is clichéd. In Your Eyes could have been fascinating if Rebecca was happily married and Dylan had something real going for him. Instead, the movie treads in all of the predictable directions. The relationship between Dylan and Rebecca is set up for an obvious romance and Whedon does not push it forward in any new or unpredictable directions; instead, he has the characters explain how and why they pursue the obvious path they have chosen.

That said, Brin Hill makes a pretty fascinating sex scene with the dual masturbation scene that seems to be the inevitable outcome of the two leads staring longingly into mirrors at one another. Led by Zoe Kazan and Michael Stahl-David, In Your Eyes is a tribute to Hollywood beauty in its casting. Everyone in the movie looks unrealistically beautiful, with Kazan being the poster girl for “beautiful but doesn’t know it despite having perfect complexion, all the right curves and a upper class income to use to accessorize the taut body with.” Stahl-David is generically good looking without any distinctive talents evident in In Your Eyes to back the role up with. The supporting cast of Mark Feuerstein, Steve Harris, and Jennifer Grey lend some maturity to the performances, while Nikki Reed plays to her strengths in one of her first big post-Twilight Saga roles as Donna.

In Your Eyes is not bad, but it has nothing superlative to it. Joss Whedon might be getting the credit for the endeavor, but in the pantheon of Whedon’s creations, this is arguably his most forgettable yet.

For other works with Steve Harris, please visit my reviews of:
Minority Report
The Practice - Season 1


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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