Jodie Foster's recent contributions to the cinema have been statuary at best. Maternal catastrophes and oblique espionage strategies took over the typically internal actress. Miss Foster made an art of harboring gruesome memories - not enacting them, per se. So, with her newest offering, she more or less returns to her roots. True, in non-flashbacks we witness the pinba... er tunnel attack which puts her in a coma and her fiancé in a plot. But that's the fine oiled monster of Hollywood logic. Now, because we have lived through Erica's turmoil, we can understand her want to get even.
At once far more artful than any of her recent pictures, and still not quite fun-artless, The Brave One is obviously an intended return to form for Miss Foster, who hand picked the role and demanded various script rewrites. And yet, there's a core deficiency in all of the film's characters. Even tortured Erica is so excruciatingly one dimensional that the shifts in her drive (revenge, justice, bloodthirst) bear no logical progression. Her character changes after the beating (we're privy to countless voice over analogies as to how she's become a stranger to herself, another person entirely...), but our capeless urban superheroine oscillates so greatly in her intentions that without any raison d'être, there is no plausibility to her transgression.
Self-consciously written to embrace a myriad of complex issues like vigilantism and that oh-so-fine line between right and wrong, the film becomes lost in the forest of capitol I Issues. Not knowing where, why or how to turn, the film's second hour is a muddled whirl, grasping for any morally firm ground. And much like Foster's perpetual flâneurie, the film breezes past such issues with a falsely confident terseness - as if mere mention was a form of critique.
Foster's acting is fine - as plausible as anyone in recent Hollywood who's won an Academy Award. It's a Performance and that's what we expect. But she could take happy lessons. The first of two unconvincing moments finds Foster chipper and shopping for wedding invitations, being reminded that the envelope is not cream but vanilla. Her perfectly sacrificial, perfect fiancé scoops her in his meaty and stable arms and her eyes show the worry of what's to come. "Not yet, Jodie!" a directing-on-autopilot Neil Jordan should have chimed. Unconvincing moment #2 (and because of this, one of the film's most memorable) finds Foster in a dingy bathroom, using a cracked mirror to apply lipstick - something so disarmingly awkward for Miss Foster. "Hey you," she flirts in the CRACKED (get it?) mirror.
Violence in The Brave One is something we have our nose rubbed in, not like Cronenberg's recent meditating on the explicitness of what violence truly is, but as a moral reminder - lest we forget. Foster guns down two robbers and potential rapists on the subway. A body slumps out the automatic doors when she leaves. A reminder of the action which occurred moments prior. Are we that prone to forget? Never is it quite disturbing - even a shot to the eye resembles a slot into which a child would insert a plastic peg.
Everything else is pretty dull. Jane Adams is hilariously underused - literally ignored out of the movie. And Terence Howard might as well have been playing a badged ottoman. But the ending! Oh, the ending! When we finally receive our undeserved reward! In perhaps the most bafflingly stupid plot twist I can recall, we receive our moment of emotional transcendence - replete with swooping crane shots, self-reflective voice over and Sarah McLachlan score. The ending's preposterousness made me love the film ultimately - perhaps because it overrides the purpose of its preceded 130 minutes. I learned a lot from Jodie last night - though I presently can't quite recall what. Save that she really needs to be taught how to correctly apply lipstick.