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DVD Review: Peacock

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She said:

FCE and I are compatible in good ways and weird ways. One of the weird ways is that we’re both “out there,” but not always in the same areas. Our similar-but-different tastes often bring strange films into our home theater. I love deliberately paced think pieces (he calls them “slow”); he loves conspiracy theory documentaries (I have to admit, they’re a hoot). We both love B-movies (remember, the “B” is for “beer”), but I don’t inflict a lot of what I view on him; there’s only so much a semi-sane human can bear. So each of our out-there-ness complements the other.

About a month or so ago (hey, it’s been a busy summer!), I saw a trailer for a movie that looked quirkily intriguing, so moved it to the top of our Netflix queue (as “keeper of the queue” I have unlimited power). We usually watch movies within a day or so of their arrival, but this one had been sitting around for about a month (probably more). I suspect that FCE wasn’t all that interested because he’s all too familiar with my definition of quirky.

Peacock features a bravura performance by Cillian Murphy, an actor whom we’ve seen in a number of films, but somehow wasn’t on our radar. Murphy portrays a man who at first appears to be a cross-dresser, then we suspect he may have multiple personality disorder, and finally we understand that he’s just plain nuts. Okay, psychotic. His character, John Skillpa, is a haunted, wounded young man devoid of social skills. While John shrinks further and further away into his shell, his alter-ego, Emma blossoms.

The supporting cast includes reliable performers Ellen Page as a somewhat bewildered young mother, Susan Sarandon (a “modern” woman), Josh Lucas (a caring cop), Bill Pullman (an insensitive supervisor), and Keith Carradine (a nice-but-prickly politician/employer). Their contributions add to the film’s rich texture.

This indie thriller is a morass of human emotions, and the audience is allowed to sink slowly into it, savoring—and puzzling out—the many details. It’s the story of a man whom everyone in the town of Peacock, Nebraska (pop. 800) thinks lives alone. One day a train jumps its tracks and the caboose lands in John’s backyard. There a woman is hanging laundry, and the passersby and witnesses mistake her for the wife they didn’t know John had.

John, emotionally fragile and ill-equipped to handle stress, becomes a victim of the fame and attention this event brings. Emma, also shy, learns to be more assertive and sure of herself. These two personalities are distinct; John doesn’t know what Emma’s doing; Emma is unaware of John’s actions. Emma communicates with John by leaving notes with the meals she prepares for him.

If this reminds you of Norman Bates, it’s with good reason. However, John/Emma is a much more detailed character with a depth not demonstrated in Norman/Mother (this is not to devalue Psycho, a classic thriller). Anthony Perkins’ and Cillian Murphy’s performances cannot be compared because each man’s character was defined differently, and the stories travel vastly dissimilar routes. Peacock is more subtle than Psycho, but Psycho was scarier.

Peacock is an absorbing film that keeps the audience guessing. It is deliberately—and deliciously—paced, which adds to the suspense and mystery.

Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent/stream Peacock? Duh…didn’t I say we got it from Netflix? But, yes, I highly recommend it to viewers looking for something that’s different, intellectual, but still bounded by the parameters that qualify it as a thriller.


He said:

Don’t say you cannot change. When I shave, I see a man in the mirror that in many ways is different from the man he was 30 years ago. Thirty years ago, given the subject matter, that guy would not have even considered watching the movie, Peacock. Not only did I watch it, I enjoyed the experience and feel that it has benefited me. It has challenged me to become still different and maybe even better in the process.

Several times during the movie, my attention was drawn to an older movie with a similar theme, Sybil. In this case, the different personalities also involved different sexes. In Peacock, the main character is a male bank employee, John, who had lived with his mother until she died. On the day she died, he met Emma. Viewers get involved when the rest of the town begins to meet Emma, John’s previously unknown “wife.”

A railroad accident begins a chain reaction that draws both John and Emma into an irreversible situation that requires the presence of each of them. This situation also requires the audience to deal with the complicated circumstances and get emotionally involved. It’s worth the effort just to see what shows up in your mirror tomorrow morning.

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