I first saw this movie in the theater, read that it was based on a true story, and had a fantastic time!
The end (until yesterday).
Watching it a second time, nine years later, was a huge let down. Granted, after a bit of research I now know the film was loosely based on the story of Anneliese Michel, a German girl who died from a similar chain of horrific events in the mid-1970’s.
The biggest problem I have with the film is the heavy handedness of how it approached the science versus religion debate. Seriously, the movie beats the viewer (and Emily) over the head with it. This might be fine except for one important thing:
THE MOVIE DOESN’T COME DOWN ON A SIDE!
Because of this the film reeked of the mass-market kind of story that doesn’t pick a side and leaves everything up to interpretation. The worst thing art can be is passive, and this film goes out of its way not to step on anyone’s toes. Everyone is right. Everyone gets a trophy. And nobody gets their feelings hurt.
Jennifer Carpenter, of Dexter fame, plays Anneliese… sorry, Emily Rose. It’s a shame that she isn’t the protagonist of her own movie because she has the acting chops to carry a story like this over the moon and back. Instead, her scenes, while filled with tremendous physical feats of pain and contortion, hit the same emotional note over and over. She’s suffering. I get it. But I’d like to get to know her a bit so I could actually care about her pain.
Since Emily’s story serves as the repeated shock value which seems necessary for a movie studio to label something horror, the weight of the story is left to the defense attorney, Laura Linney. She does a solid job with the acting, but because she isn’t what the audience wants to see (they came to see a movie called Emily Rose) her scenes come across as filler until we get to the next moment of Emily’s horror. But it was Linney’s speech at the end that really annoyed me. After all she witnessed, all of the testimony she heard, after seeing someone get mowed down with a car, she still hasn’t made up her mind about the science versus religion debate. If the events of the film couldn’t sway her then it is clear that she is numb to any kind of spiritual awakening. Which is fine except for the fact that this comes in direct conflict to goals of Emily’s story.
If Emily’s story was supposed to inspire faith then Linney’s apathy sucked all of the marrow from the experience. This made Emily’s suffering seem pointless which in turn left a sour taste in my mouth. I knew I was watching a horror film, but it wasn’t until the closing statements that I felt like I was watching something worse… something pointless.