out of 4
All-Reviews.com Movie/Video Review
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc
Review by MrBrown
2 stars out of 4
Although the exact reasons for their estrangement have not been made
public (aside from the catch-all "irreconcilable differences"), after
seeing _The_Messenger_, I can only conclude that Milla Jovovich's
woefully unconvincing performance as the title character was a prominent
reason for director/soon-to-be-ex-husband Luc Besson's split with her.
Joan of Arc, the legendary teen who guided the French army in their war
against England after hearing a message from God, is the role of a
lifetime for any young actress, calling on its portrayer to run the full
gamut of emotions: spiritual euphoria, steely determination and strength,
and ultimately great sadness. The role calls for great range, and
Jovovich proves to not have any. She wears the same look throughout the
entire film: eyes bulged, nostrils flaring, teeth gritted--the latter,
that is, when she's not shrieking at the top of her lungs. Jovovich is
at her best when asked to use her modeling skills to serve as a blank
presence, as in her previous collaboration with Besson,
_The_Fifth_Element_; and what is in my opinion her defining role--the
slutty French exchange student who stole all of Kelly Bundy's boyfriends
on an episode of _Married..._with_Children_. Required to do more as she
is in _The_Messenger_, Jovovich is clearly at her worst.
So when Joan meets her end tied to a burning stake, there is no sense of
tragic loss, only one of relief. But that's clearly Jovovich's fault and
not that of Besson (though he must be blamed for casting with his
crotch), who works overtime to give the film a larger-than-life epic
quality that his heroine lacks. He actually succeeds in part,
particularly in the visual department; his sometimes-surreal imagery is
divinely haunting. He also gets some decent work from Jovovich's acting
support; John Malkovich and Faye Dunaway are creepy and creepier,
respectively, as the dauphin of France and his scheming mother-in-law.
However, Besson makes other questionable choices, such as bringing Joan's
conscience to life in the final act in the form of... Dustin Hoffman.
His distracting presence undercuts any dramatic momentum and tension
Besson could ever hope to build, with or without Jovovich in the lead.
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