2008-07-04 / Columnists


'Savage Grace' - Other Side Of 'Psycho'
Review By Robert Snyder

In the end of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho," we are treated to the mother's point of view. Of course, the mysterious Mrs. Bates is now in total possession her son, Norman (Anthony Perkins), who is incarcerated for multiple murders. It is him we see. It is her we hear.

"Savage Grace" is about another monstrous mother, except this story is real. And, she's the star throughout.

Based on the 1985 book concerning the Baekeland family, Director Tom Kalin's film focuses on the more than bizarre relationship between Barbara (an Oscar-worthy Julianne Moore) and her only child, sensitive son Tony (Eddie Redmayne). Heirs to the fortune from the pioneering plastic, Bakelite, the Baekelands are so wealthy that "money" is a word never mentioned. "Morality" is also not part of their vocabulary. Nor is "accountability."

With father Brooks (Stephen Dillane, far different in "Fugitive Pieces") weakly holding the reigns, the family is on course to chaos. This fate is further defined by his wife, former actress-sometime artist Barbara, who is the loosest and craziest of cannons.

When beautiful baby Tony is born, it seems that some semblance of sanity and order may be forthcoming. Particularly, since mother is all gaga over the little one.

But, as time passes from the '40's through the '70's, the devil has plenty at play with these always idle aristocrats. In fact, mother and teenage Tony have a habit of becoming strangely intimate during bath-time. Big on rough sex and sodomy, Dad finally loses interest in Barbara altogether and moves out with one of Tony's girlfriends. Sexual ambiguity is the norm in the Baekeland household, as beds are often shared by house guests and/or family members, incest notwithstanding. Covering the moral decay are the finest of clothes couched in elegant real estate.

However, even the most wealthy have to pay the price. Like Norman, Tony grows increasingly disturbed, descending into violence. It becomes directed at Barbara, who takes mother love to a new dimension.

If you want to see the downside of the upper class, check out "Savage Grace." It will make you appreciate being poor.

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