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Dead Ringers (1988) Review

28 04 2011

Copyright 1988 Morgan Creek Productions

★ ★ ★

Let me start off by saying that his is one hauntingly strange film.  The mood and atmosphere of the entire piece have an almost dream-like quality.  The story follows the lives of two twin gynecologists, Elliot and Beverly Mantle (both played by Jeremy Irons), who are identical in every way outside of personality.  They share a physician’s practice, an apartment and even lovers.

Elliot is outspoken, charismatic and debonaire, whereas Beverly is soft spoken and mild mannered.  When actress Claire Niveau (Genevieve Bujold) visits their practice for an examination, Elliot sets up a date with her and eventually sleeps with her under the assumption that he is Beverly.  As is custom in the brother’s relationship, Beverly shows up in future meetings and sleeps with her as well.  They switch off many times without Claire knowing, but over time, Beverly begins to actually love her.  Claire, thinking Beverly doesn’t have a brother, finds out about Elliot and breaks the relationship off harshly; however, they eventually rekindle the romance.  Over time, Claire, a drug addict, hooks Beverly on barbiturates.  The remainder of the film is a bizarre, psychological examination of the bond between the two brothers, drug use and psychosis.

Like I said earlier, this a bizarre film.  David Cronenberg directs with a script by himself and Norman Snider, based upon the book “Twins” by Bari Wood and Jack Geasland.  The source book, in turn, is loosely based on the true life story of brothers Stewart and Cyril Marcus, gynecologists who shared an apartment in Manhattan, who were found dead together in 1975 from barbiturate withdrawal.

Jeremy Irons plays both the characters of Elliot and Beverly with the help of some meticulous camerawork and very early computer generated traveling mattes.  Let me just say this – Irons is brilliant, brilliant, brilliant in this role.  Each of the twins has their own nuances and personalities that he plays with precision.  At first, you are thrown off by knowing it is Irons playing both parts, but after about 10 minutes you start to forget this.  By the end, you don’t even realize that these brilliant performances in the same scene interacting with each other are the same guy!  Very, very impressive work on his part; many say his Oscar for Reversal of Fortune was a makeup for not being nominated for this role(s).  Bujold is really the only other primary actor in the film, of which, I was not very impressed.  She wasn’t bad, but it was nothing worth making special note of.

The film, overall, is bizarre, strange and a little tedious in parts.  Iron’s performance is the real crux of the picture here and, in my opinion, it is the sole reason to take the time to watch this film.

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