July 21, 2011

The Fall (2006)
Grade: 75/100

Director: Tarsem Singh
Stars: Catinca Untaru, Lee Pace, Leo Bill

What it's about. Set in Los Angeles during the 1920s. Stuntman Roy Walker (Lee Pace) is paralyzed from the waist down due to a failed stunt during the shooting of a Western. Roy is hospitalized, suicidal, and broken-hearted. His hottie girlfriend (Camilla Waldman) has left him for the film's leading man (Daniel Caltagirone).

Roy would like to overdose on morphine pills, and attempts to convince a trusting little girl to steal them for him. She is Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), an adorable tyke who is the hospital with a broken arm. She is from an immigrant Romanian family that works in the orange fields. Alexandra's attractive nurse is played by Justine Waddell.

Roy regales Alexandra with a fabulous epic tall-tale involving several men of diverse backgrounds who have sworn to kill an evil dictator. This story is periodically interrupted by Roy with pleas for morphine pills needed to continue the story. Alexandria tries to oblige, but as she is a child, she is unsuccessful.

The tall tale consumes much of the film. The allied men who seek justice are a slave (Marcus Wesley), an Indian (Jeetu Verma), explosives expert Luigi (Robin Smith), naturalist Charles Darwin (Leo Bill), an aboriginal mystic (Julian Bleach), and a bandit, who is eventually played by Lee Pace himself as the fantasy tale begins to morph into an allegory for the relationship between Lee and Alexandria.

The film is based on the obscure Bulgarian movie Yo ho ho (1981), and the director is Indian immigrant Tarsem Singh.

How others will see it. The Fall must have been a costly production, as filming took place in some three dozen different countries. Nonetheless, it received only a limited release and must have lost money. However, the movie has 33,582 votes (so far) at imdb.com and video sales are likely spreading via word of mouth.

The movie picked up a few minor nominations, but is popular at imdb.com, particularly among women, who give a whopping 8.5 out of 10. There is a slight decrease in the user ratings with advancing age. Most viewers are completely won over by the charm of young Catinca Untaru, although there is a small minority who dislike the bleak story and the loose nature of the fantasy sequences.

How I felt about it. I was surprised to learn that the epic scenes were filmed at various exotic locations instead of concocted with CGI. The costumes are impressive, and so is the script, the cinematography, and the acting. It's all good.

It seems that Alexandria, bored at the hospital, finds a father figure in troubled Roy Walker. Roy is using Alexandria to commit suicide, but through her growing devotion for him, realizes at last the error of his ways. Life goes on, with or without working legs or the possession of a fickle beautiful woman.

We suspect a cinematic ending, such as Alexandria leaving her impoverished field worker family to live with Roy as an adopted daughter and assistant. But the film ends in more realistic fashion, for which I am grateful.