Thursday, July 24, 2014

Movie Review: "Nell" (1994)

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Director: Michael Apted
Year: 1994
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 52 minutes

In a remote cabin in the woods, an old hermit woman has passed away. Upon investigating her death, it is discovered by a local doctor Jerome (Liam Neeson) that the woman did not live alone, and that she had a daughter named Nell (Jodie Foster). Nell is an adult, but has been raised in complete isolation from society and has no idea how the outside world works. Many question whether or not Nell is capable of taking care of herself. Psychology student Paula Olson (Natasha Richardson) and a group of researchers wish to study Nell in a laboratory environment. Jerome, on the other hand, believes she should be left alone. A judge rules that they have three months to study Nell in her own environment to determine whether or not she is capable of caring for herself.

"Nell" is a great example of a movie that wants to be powerful and poignant, but doesn't fully achieve its ideals. Though it did garner Foster an Oscar nomination as the title woman who is so far removed from society that she has no social skills and who speaks in her own unintelligible language due to her mother's speech impediment, it's still not enough to be as impactful as we believe it was made to be. It wants to deal with topics such as individual rights and using people for scientific study and research, and also if courts have the right to decide what a grown woman can do with her own life, even if that woman is uneducated. All this being said, Jodie Foster really does put on a fine performance and is very convincing as Nell. We think she was the perfect casting choice. In fact, none of the acting is bad at all. Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson round out a great supporting cast.

Though the overall concept of the story is interesting enough, its execution is what suffers here. The final product only makes for a decent film. It's not a movie that we would go out of our way to watch again, and it's not something that's going to knock your socks off the first time you see it. It's not overly compelling and drags on a little bit here and there. The entire thing is pretty much driven by Foster's performance and the events surrounding her "personhood." Ultimately, it's not a bad movie, it's just there, and if we were flipping through the channels one day and came across it on TV, we'd move right to the next channel.

We just have one more thing to say about this movie, in the wise words of Nell: "chicka chicka chickabee, t'ee an me an t'ee an me, ressa ressa ressa me, chicka chicka chickabee."

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 53%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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