[Review] – The Woman in the Fifth

27 Jun

Title: The Woman in the Fifth
Year: 2012
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Writer: Pawel Pawlikowski, based on the novel by Douglas Kennedy
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Kristin Scott Thomas, Joanna Kulig
MPAA Rating: R, some sexual content, language and violent images
Runtime: 85 min
IMDb Rating: 5.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 62%
Metacritic: 57

Tom Ricks is a writer who goes from America to Paris in order to be closer to his young daughter, who’s living with his estranged ex-wife, maybe get their loves back, start over again, you know how those things go. Suffice it to say things don’t go just as he planned: his wife slams the door in his face, he falls asleep on a bus and when he wakes up his luggage and most of his cash is gone, which means he’s pretty much broke and must accept a job as a kind of night guard in a small room with a video camera; if someone calls up he must ask what they want, and if they say a certain name he’ll push a button. A quiet and lonely job that, he hopes, will have inspiration for his new novel strike all the quicker.

His life starts getting a bit more interesting when he meets the titular woman in the fifth. The fifth refers to the fifth arrondissement, which is where her apartment is, and is the only place she’ll allow him to see her in, just twice a week, at five in the afternoon sharp. Her name is Margit, a beautiful and mysterious stranger that walks into Tom’s life and sets down these ground rules for their romance, telling him that he also can’t ask her a thing about what she does or her personal life. Then however, things start getting real shady, as a lot of really horrible and inexplicable events start happening around Tom’s life.

That is the basic plot outline for Pawel Pawlikowski‘s The Woman in the Fifth, which has the fortune of starring Ethan Hawke as Rick and Kristin Scott Thomas as the titular gal. Which says something because these are two very good actors that most of the times are very good at picking which movies they star in. And I liked the sensation Mr. Pawlikowski made this film have on you, you always feel that there’s something slightly off, in how Mr. Hawke is shot when he starts his job, in how Margit behaves in her apartment when they meet. There’s just something that’s clicking in a slightly odd way, and you’ll try to pinpoint exactly what that is.

That’s the best part about The Woman in the Fifth, the fact that as it moves along you’re constantly wondering what’s going to happen next, meditating on what had just happened before, wondering about what was really happening now. Unfortunately, though, for me, The Woman in the Fifth is one of those movies that by the time it’s all said and done, it never really provided answers to all those questions. And I don’t think it’s a good enough film that it can trust us to just accept it as it is. I am actually part of the group of people that thinks that in many cases the questions are far better than the answers will ever be, so they must be left unanswered, but I think we could have gotten at least some answers, which would have made the unanswered ones all the better. It’s one of those films that say it was maybe all a dream, that are designed to make our imagination work its way through it, but the ending just threw me away.

I must clear up that I mean it prevent me from liking this film as much as I could have, and not from liking this film period. Because I did like this film a fair bit, I mean, I was totally into it for its entire 85-minute running time, on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happened next, and if a film does that then I have to hand it to it. Cinematographer Ryszard Lenczewski shoots this film really beautifully, too, it feels elegant and dark and lonely all at the same time and it works, and Mr. Pawlikowski, who’s last film was the amazing My Summer of Love, is actually very very good at how he paces the whole thing, which is why I was so engaged by it all, but it’s also why I was so enraged when the ending was just so damn off.

Mr. Hakwe and Ms. Thomas are wonderful, too. Like I said, I really like them both as actors and I think they are really good at picking their projects, and they deliver really solid work here. Mr. Hawke has to be given most of the credit as to why you’re compelled to keep watching the whole film, I got really drawn into his performance, I felt the loneliness, and the fragility, I got endeared to him. And Ms. Thomas, who has to be one of the finest working actresses nowadays, is really just super fun to watch honestly, she knows just what notes to strike with this character, and makes it work.

It’s just that it all should have worked far better. I’m giving this film a recommending grade because I was totally into it for whatever reason it was, and that has to count for something, and because I still think Mr. Pawlikowski is a damn fine director, and I hope he doesn’t take another eight years between movies, and because Mr. Hawke and Ms. Thomas are good here, and because the whole thing looks gorgeous. But the fact of the matter is that we’re given a puzzle with a whole lot of questions and basically no answers, and this one ends in a very unsatisfactory note because of that, no matter how many commendable things it had done to get to that ending in the first place.

Grade: B


One Response to “[Review] – The Woman in the Fifth”

  1. amandalovesmovies July 14, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    Agree this could have been a decent film with some tweeking but the lack of answers made it a very unsatisfactory viewing experience for me. Check out my review http://amandalovesmovies.com/2012/06/16/the-woman-in-the-fifth/

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